Book Review: Is Work Killing You? A Doctor’s Prescription for Treating Workplace Stress

Updated on June 1, 2013

Is Work Killing You copyc.2013, House of Anansi   $18.95 US and Canada 358 pages

You set goals at the beginning of the fiscal year and you already know that your employees won’t make them.

Yes, they’ve had to push a little harder than they did before and they’ve endured some layoffs but everybody seems to have adjusted. Still, you know that morale is low and you’re thinking a fun group event might help.

According to David Posen, MD, you’re on the right track but there are lots more things you can do for your employees. In his book Is Work Killing You? you’ll see how helping them will help you.

In his medical practice, David Posen sees “first-hand and up close the psychological and physical damage” caused by workplace woes. Employees are stretched too thin, they’re doing more work for less money – some businesses even expect employees to work through lunches, weekends, holidays, and vacations – which often leads to headaches, forgetfulness, irritability, agitation, and depression that Posen directly attributes to work-related stress.

“Workplaces are making people sick,” he says, and no one seems willing to discuss it.

As he sees it, the biggest contributors to workplace stress are volume (an increase in workload, to the point of overload), velocity (accelerated speed at which employees are expected to work), and abuse (office bullies who “wreak havoc”).  Other issues come into play, but these are the top three.

So what can you do?

Though it’s a “hard sell,” Posen says studies indicate that productivity, mental clarity, and energy actually improve when work hours are reduced, face-time and meetings become optional, vacation-taking is mandatory, and employees are encouraged to disconnect from work on a regular basis.

As an employer, you’ll also get more out of your employees if you encourage healthy habits. If it’s feasible, let them go home early when work is finished. Share the wealth – or at least make salaries more equitable. Help employees deal with office politics. Know the difference between “excellent service and excessive service.” Prioritize projects wisely and discourage multitasking.

Lastly, ease up. Your employees’ health and your bottom line both depend on it.

Wow. As I was reading “Is Work Killing You?” there was one question that kept popping into mind: why isn’t this book taught in school?

You’ll ask yourself that, too, as you devour this common-sense, how-to, rant-slash-advice book because author and physician David Posen makes many good points for employees and business owners alike. In making those arguments, he underscores his research by sharing dozens of anecdotes from his patients and others, and some of them are jaw-droppingly uncomfortable to read. Posen doesn’t leave us hanging on those squirmy details for long, though; he offers pages and pages of ideas meant to make the business world better, do-able from dual sides of the paycheck.

This is one of those books that could potentially benefit anyone who works for a living, and I’m excited to finally see this topic tackled. I think that if a stress-free workday is what your business needs, then reading “Is Work Killing You?” should be your goal.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books. For more information, visit [email protected].

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