The truth about chronic stress, health and performance

750,000 people die each year from heart disease and stroke due to working long hours. In other words, more people are dying from overwork than from malaria. These are the latest alarming data from research published last month by the WHO and ILO considering also that 9% of the world’s population is working long hours. Sustained overwork creates chronic stress that triggers persistent inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can lead to a range of health problems, including diabetes and heart disease. Chronic stress can have a huge impact on the brain too, putting us at risk of many physical and psychological problems. Health issues are not only a consequence of working long hours. A toxic workplace, for example, is not just bad for performance and morale. It takes a toll on employees’ mental health too. Another recent study from the University of South Australia has confirmed that a toxic culture increases the risk of: – Depression by 300% – Stroke or cardiovascular events It becomes clear that stress, long hours, burnout, toxic environment have much more dangerous consequences than what we used to think. Not just on employees’ health. There is a clear correlation between mental health and low performance. High performances can be achieved without squeezing every single employee until he/she crashes though. Successful organizations don’t crash people for the sake higher profits and returns. Neuroscientist experts (in particular Dr. Paul Zak) have proven that a culture based on trust decreases chronic stress. In organizations with a high level of trust, employees are healthier, take 40% fewer sick days, and are generally happier than low-level trust organizations. In other words, trust increases personal fulfilment and satisfaction at work, reduces mental health and chronic stress, and improves interpersonal behaviours. In these conditions, trust-based organizations outperformed their rivals. Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work are noted for their higher market performance. How great is an organization that can build its market leadership and preserves the health of its people at the same time? Here’s the good news. You can have both, as long as you create a trust-based culture where employees can perform at the best of their abilities, be happy to work, feel motivated and, most importantly, stay healthy. Tony Hsieh (former CEO of Zappos) said: “Our belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff, like great customer service or building a great long-term brand or empowering passionate employees and customers will happen on its own.” 
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