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Wellbeing: A Complete Reference Guide, Volume II, Wellbeing and the Environment by Elizabeth Burton, Rachel Cooper, Cary L. Cooper

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14

Workplace and Wellbeing

Jeremy Myerson

Royal College of Art, U.K.

Introduction

Remember the old joke about nobody on their deathbed ever wishing they'd spent more time in the office? It rarely fails to raise a smile. But behind our amused recognition of an uncomfortable truth lies a darker reality: the modern workplace of the past 100 years or so has been incompatible in its management and design with many of the human values we hold most dear. Its ruthless prioritizing of organizational efficiency over individual wellbeing has created an environment—both physical and psychological—that is often self-defeating in its failure to safeguard and support the performance and morale of office workers.

Loss of workplace productivity through sickness or stress is well documented. Absence from work cost the U.K. economy more than £17 billion in 2010 according to the Confederation of British Industry (2011). That year, around 26.4 million working days were lost, according to the Health and Safety Executive (www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/stress.pdf); 22.1 million of them were due to work-related ill health (predominantly stress, depression, anxiety, and musculoskeletal disorders) and 4.4 million due to workplace injuries. Physical injuries in the workplace have reduced from a generation ago but mental health problems are sharply on the rise, costing the UK economy the equivalent of £1,600 per employee according to the U.K. National Work-Stress Network (2012).

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