Toxic Workplaces Are Bad for Mental and Physical Health, Surgeon General Says
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Toxic Workplaces Are Bad for Mental and Physical Health, Surgeon General Says

A mentally healthy workplace includes growth opportunities, work-life balance and community, according to America’s doctor

Fri, Oct 21, 2022 8:51amGrey Clock 4 min

The U.S. surgeon general is telling Americans for the first time that disrespectful or cutthroat workplaces could be hazardous to their health.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s office—which is more often associated with warnings about nicotine, Zika and the Covid-19 pandemic—issued a guidance Thursday outlining how long hours, limited autonomy and low wages can affect workers’ health and organisational performance. Chronic stress disrupts sleep, increases vulnerability to infection and has been linked to conditions ranging from heart disease to depression, the document said, citing research from the American Psychological Association and a Stanford University psychologist.

“Toxic workplaces are harmful to workers—to their mental health, and it turns out, to their physical health as well,” Dr. Murthy said.

The surgeon general’s guidance on the role of the workplace in well-being comes as many workers report work stress and difficulty concentrating. Meanwhile, companies have stepped up spending on mental-health and well-being benefits in recent years.

Recommendations in the surgeon general’s release include asking workplace leaders to listen to workers about their needs, increasing pay and limiting communications outside of work hours. A mentally healthy workplace, according to the framework, includes growth opportunities, work-life balance, community, protection from harm and employee influence on workplace decisions.

“People are asking themselves what they want out of work,” Dr. Murthy said. “They’re also asking themselves what they’re willing to sacrifice for work, and the fundamental questions are reshaping people’s relationships with the workplace.”

The statement comes as several million people, many of whom are women, lacking a college degree and working in low-paying fields, are expected to remain out of the labor force indefinitely, researchers say. About 80% of the roughly 11,300 workers surveyed between 2020 and 2021 by Mental Health America said that work stress affects relationships with friends, family and co-workers. While 46% of respondents said in 2018 that they had trouble concentrating at work, 65% did in 2020 and 71% did in 2021. The survey cited the pandemic as one potential contributor to this shift.

Alexia Rowe, 25 years old, works at a box office in Cambridge, Mass. Earlier this year, when a show was rescheduled, she called ticket holders to share the news. A patron began screaming at her, Ms. Rowe said. The next morning, she felt a wave of anxiety.

A manager allowed her to take a break from making calls, she said.

“If I leave this position,” she said, “I’m not going to find a manager that’s like her.”

Of more than 2,000 workers surveyed by the American Psychological Association in April and May, 18% described their workplace as somewhat or very toxic, and 30% said they had experienced harassment, verbal abuse or physical violence at work, including from customers.

Companies have been channeling more resources toward employee mental health. The 372-employee software company Kajabi asks employees regularly whether they have energy for family time after work or if they feel their workload is in line with their level and skill set. Samantha Matthews, vice president of people operations, said between the last quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of this year, responses trended negative.

Kajabi, which is based in Irvine, Calif., hired about a dozen people to teams that were understaffed, Ms. Matthews said. The company also spent about $17,000 in one quarter on wellness benefits, including an expanded employee-assistance program offering three free therapy sessions and seven weeks of courses from an outside vendor related to mental wellness and burnout.

Managers also encourage employees to take paid time off after big projects launch, she said.

“People are adults,” she said. “They take the time that they need, and they’re here when they don’t need it.”

Forty percent of 563 companies with at least 100 employees and $1 million in annual revenue surveyed by the benefits-consulting firm NFP in February and March spent between $201 and $600 per employee on well-being, a category including programs such as mindfulness workshops and office fitness challenges, in 2021.

The surgeon general recommended that employers provide access to mental-health care as part of benefits packages, but the guidance goes beyond specific services and links broader aspects of work, such as pay and autonomy, to well being.

“When I talk to employers, they all acknowledge that mental health and well-being are top concerns of theirs,” said Ron Goetzel, director of the Institute for Health and Productivity Studies at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “This has come up into the C-suite, more so than ever before.”

Dr. Goetzel said employers are motivated to pay attention to these issues if they can’t fill jobs, adding that the costs of prevention are small compared with treatment.

Paige Kerr, an office manager in Bensenville, Ill., juggled a heavy workload earlier this year. Her company was getting acquired while she was working through a custody dispute for her young son, and she called in sick several times. Feeling disengaged was unusual for Ms. Kerr, 27, who said she rarely took time off.

“I was putting more effort into not doing the work, versus just doing it,” she said.

In September, her manager told her he felt her performance had diminished, and that her negativity affected colleagues. He urged her to take a week of paid time off. Ms. Kerr turned off her Slack notifications and, after a few days, stopped checking email.

She registered her son for daycare and worked through court paperwork—things that, after a long day of work, had been last on her list.

After the vacation, she said, it no longer felt “like the world’s caving in.” She said she has felt more optimistic and engaged at the office.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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Luxury watch collectors showed ongoing strong demand for Patek Philippe, growing interest in modern watches and a preference for larger case sizes and leather straps at the June watch sales in New York, according to an analysis of the major auctions.

Independent and neo-vintage categories, meanwhile, experienced declines in total sales and average prices, said the report from  EveryWatch, a global online platform for watch information. Overall, the New York auctions achieved total sales of US$52.27 million, a 9.87% increase from the previous year, on the sale of 470 lots, reflecting a 37% increase in volume. Unsold rates ticked down a few points to 5.31%, according to the platform’s analysis.

EveryWatch gathered data from official auction results for sales held in New York from June 5 to 10 at Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s. Limited to watch sales exclusively, each auction’s data was reviewed and compiled for several categories, including total lots, sales and sold rates, highest prices achieved, performance against estimates, sales trends in case materials and sizes as well as dial colors, and more. The resulting analysis provides a detailed overview of market trends and performance.

The Charles Frodsham Pocket watch sold at Phillips for $433,400.

“We still see a strong thirst for rare, interesting, and exceptional watches, modern and vintage alike, despite a little slow down in the market overall,” says Paul Altieri, founder and CEO of the California-based pre-owned online watch dealer, in an email. “The results show that there is still a lot of money floating around out there in the economy looking for quality assets.”

Patek Philippe came out on top with more than US$17.68 million on the sale of 122 lots. It also claimed the top lot: Sylvester Stallone’s Patek Philippe GrandMaster Chime 6300G-010, still in the sealed factory packaging, which sold at Sotheby’s for US$5.4 million, much to the dismay of the brand’s president, Thierry Stern . The London-based industry news website WatchPro estimates the flip made the actor as much as US$2 million in just a few years.

At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire
Richard Mille

“As we have seen before and again in the recent Sotheby’s sale, provenance can really drive prices higher than market value with regards to the Sylvester Stallone Panerai watches and his standard Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1a offered,” Altieri says.

Patek Philippe claimed half of the top 10 lots, while Rolex and Richard Mille claimed two each, and Philippe Dufour claimed the No. 3 slot with a 1999 Duality, which sold at Phillips for about US$2.1 million.

“In-line with EveryWatch’s observation of the market’s strong preference for strap watches, the top lot of our auction was a Philippe Dufour Duality,” says Paul Boutros, Phillips’ deputy chairman and head of watches, Americas, in an email. “The only known example with two dials and hand sets, and presented on a leather strap, it achieved a result of over US$2 million—well above its high estimate of US$1.6 million.”

In all, four watches surpassed the US$1 million mark, down from seven in 2023. At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire, the most expensive watch sold at Christie’s in New York. That sale also saw a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM52-01 CA-FQ Tourbillon Skull Model go for US$1.26 million to an online buyer.

Rolex expert Altieri was surprised one of the brand’s timepieces did not crack the US$1 million threshold but notes that a rare Rolex Daytona 6239 in yellow gold with a “Paul Newman John Player Special” dial came close at US$952,500 in the Phillips sale.

The Crown did rank second in terms of brand clout, achieving sales of US$8.95 million with 110 lots. However, both Patek Philippe and Rolex experienced a sales decline by 8.55% and 2.46%, respectively. The independent brand Richard Mille, with US$6.71 million in sales, marked a 912% increase from the previous year with 15 lots, up from 5 lots in 2023.

The results underscored recent reports of prices falling on the secondary market for specific coveted models from Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. The summary points out that five top models produced high sales but with a fall in average prices.

The Rolex Daytona topped the list with 42 appearances, averaging US$132,053, a 41% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, with two of the top five watches, made 26 appearances with an average price of US$111,198, a 26% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar followed with 23 appearances and a US$231,877 average price, signifying a fall of 43%, and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak had 22 appearances and an average price of US$105,673, a 10% decrease. The Rolex Day Date is the only watch in the top five that tracks an increase in average price, which at US$72,459 clocked a 92% increase over last year.

In terms of categories, modern watches (2005 and newer) led the market with US$30 million in total sales from 226 lots, representing a 53.54% increase in sales and a 3.78% increase in average sales price over 2023. Vintage watches (pre-1985) logged a modest 6.22% increase in total sales and an 89.89% increase in total lots to 169.

However, the average price was down across vintage, independent, and neo-vintage (1990-2005) watches. Independent brands saw sales fall 24.10% to US$8.47 million and average prices falling 42.17%, while neo-vintage watches experienced the largest decline in sales and lots, with total sales falling 44.7% to US$8.25 million, and average sales price falling 35.73% to US$111,000.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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