Hate your job? The good news is you’ve got company — lots of it. The bad news is it’s making you fat, cranky and possibly even shortening your lifespan.
Nobody expects work to be a day at the beach, but new research shows that Americans really can’t stand their jobs today. A Salary.com survey of more than 2,000 people found that, economic recovery notwithstanding, most of us are increasingly dissatisfied and disillusioned with the 9-to-5 grind. Here’s why and how this affects us even after we’ve punched out or walked through the lobby and out of the building.
We’re only in it for the money. In Salary.com’s survey, 73% of respondents said their main motivation for getting up and going to work is the paycheck, up almost 20 percentage points from a year ago. “This is likely a result of lingering effects from the recession and tough financial times for many workers and families,” Salary.com says.
But money doesn’t buy happiness, according to a meta-analysis to measure how salary correlates to satisfaction. “Relatively well-paid samples of individuals are only trivially more satisfied than relatively poorly paid samples,” researchers wrote. Even getting a raise only gives us a temporary boost in happiness, and our bosses aren’t much happier than us even though they earn more. Chasing cold, hard cash instead of professional fulfillment and satisfaction has a domino effect on our health and happiness.
Unfulfilling work is making us sick. In 2012, nearly 60% of workers said they were fulfilled by their jobs, but that’s fallen by 20 percentage points in just a year. That’s too bad, because being happy at work makes us healthier, according to a study of German workers conducted by the Institute for the Study of Labor.
“The results show an unambiguously increasing effect of job satisfaction on health,” researchers said. They found that workers’ own perceptions of how healthy they were crept higher when people were more satisfied with their jobs. And researchers observed that “this effect of job satisfaction goes beyond the influence on subjective health assessments — the positive relationship also holds with more objective health measures such as contacts with the health care system and sick leave from work.”
When work stress starts eating us, we start eating. The percentage of workers who said they’re proud of their jobs fell nearly 20 points since last year. Salary.com suggests, “This could be the result of the employees who survived layoffs constantly having to do more with less.”
Being one of the survivors in a round of layoffs is invariably stressful, and the result shows up in our waistlines. Researchers in Rochester, N.Y., studied a company going through what it called “drastic restructuring with massive layoffs and building closings.” Workers left behind were stuck with more work and less control in their jobs, and that translated to a one-unit increase in body mass index — a little under 6 lb. for someone 5 ft. 4 in., or about 8 lb. for a 6-ft. 2-in. person.
We’ve got one foot out the door already. The share of workers who say they’re “100% committed” to their jobs plummeted from just under three-quarters to a tick over one-half since 2012. Last year, 42% of people said that even if they became instant millionaires they’d be at the office the next day. But in 2013, most of these hypothetical lottery winners would be no-shows, as just 30% said they would clock in the next day. Researchers studying more than 200 4-H workers found that commitment to work — the commitment that’s lacking in today’s workforce — and job satisfaction are inextricably linked.
Even if you’re a good worker, your co-worker who just phones it in is killing your professional commitment. A study published in the Academy of Management Journal explored what it called “turnover contagion” and found that working closely with people who can’t wait to jump ship has negative repercussions. “Beyond just affecting individual decisionmaking, it also influences whether the social environment incites leaving,” the study said.
Working way too much is literally killing us. More than half of respondents said they “constantly” feel overworked, an increase of 7 percentage points since last year. A study of workers in Finland “found the risk of dying from a heart attack doubled among permanent employees after a major round of downsizing, with the risk growing to five times normal after four years,” according to the New York Times.
Even if they don’t keel over from exhaustion, this could be another reason American desk jockeys are packing on the pounds. The Rochester study found that workers increased their odds of being overweight or obese by 77% if they went home and crashed in front of the TV for a couple of hours — and those odds shot up to 150% more likely if they vegged out in front of the tube for four or more hours a day.