Say you had to picture a toxic work environment; what would it look like?
A disagreement with your team member, delay in project submission, or loss of an important document does not necessarily mean it is a toxic workplace.
However, if everyone on your team consistently disagrees with you and treats one another disrespectfully, or some of your co-workers unfairly receive promotions due to their close friendship with the boss. In that case, you could be in a toxic work environment. A toxic workplace is a setting that breeds stress, frustration, and burnout and inhibits productivity.
Unfortunately, not many companies understand the importance of workplace health and safety, and toxic workplaces are aplenty today. In such companies, employees are more likely to go home drained of energy and happiness and experience a wide range of mental and physical health issues, such as stress, anxiety, depression, alcoholism, Hypertension, etc.
Other than a workplace full of depressed, stressed-out, and sick workers, business consequences include higher insurance premiums, less innovation, a negative company culture, greater absenteeism, and lower employee productivity.
However, on the flip side, you can take action to improve a toxic work environment or stop one from developing in the first place. To do that, you must first understand what a toxic or unhealthy workplace looks like. You can then work with employees to create and maintain a healthy environment with effective HR procedures and training.
What is an Unhealthy Work Environment?
An unhealthy work environment is one where employees find it challenging to fulfill their responsibilities or grow in their careers due to their co-workers, managers, or the workplace culture.
Your workplace’s toxic atmosphere may result in mental stress, physical discomfort, or emotional distress. Therefore, it is important to recognize if your workplace is unhealthy and how it impacts your mental and physical health.
According to the Society For Human Resource Management, businesses may have lost more than $220 billion over the past five years due to employees quitting an unhealthy work environment. However, the true cost of negativity at work is significantly higher.
Top 10 effects of working in an Unhealthy Work Environment
A hostile work environment can be detrimental to the business. Unhealthy work environments affect employees’ mental and physical well-being, negatively impacting business efficiency.
Here are the top 10 effects of working in an unhealthy work environment:
1. No motivation in employees
A badly run workplace harms employee motivation. In an unhealthy work environment, employees lack motivation. And as you know, if you work with unmotivated colleagues, the lack of motivation will also sap your energy.
On the other hand, team members who are motivated to give their all, improve and generate new ideas. These employees are more inspiring than those who are uninterested or unmotivated.
In the year 2020-21, there was an estimated 822,000 employees who were affected by work-related depression, stress or anxiety. That’s 2,480 per 100,000 workers. During the same time, work-related stress, anxiety or depression accounted for 50% of all work-related illness.
Employees may experience negative emotions such as depression, loss of interest, irritation, headaches, difficulties concentrating, and guilty feelings. Most of the time, employees are unaware of what is happening to them. And an unhealthy work environment may discourage people from getting therapy even if they know the signs. The employers should focus on improving the health of workforce to boost employee morale, prevent loss time due to sickness, reduce turnover, etc.
3. Poor work-life balance
When an employee is not working, their personal and professional lives should not mix. The survival of a company depends on maintaining this work-life balance.
If an employee is required to be available at all times, this presents issues. For instance, the manager may want employees to respond to emails even during their day off and when on vacation. This means that employees cannot even enjoy their time off.
Employees who lack work-life balance may experience extreme stress.
Constantly feeling tired? This is common in an unhealthy work environment. Working under such stress results in disturbed sleep or even insomnia.
According to OSHA, fatigue can have detrimental impacts on one’s health. It can impair your memory and focus, decrease your awareness and make it harder for you to make judgments. You may become agitated and unmotivated as a result. Being overstretched at work can be disastrous if you drive or operate heavy machinery.
Working long hours can make you more likely to develop Hypertension or high blood pressure. You may suffer from aneurysms, strokes, heart disease, kidney failure, and even vision loss due to Hypertension.
The risk of developing Hypertension and other serious health issues rises when working in an unhealthy environment. As a result, employees should avoid working long hours and take good care of their health.
One of the hallmarks of burnout is intense exhaustion. High levels of stress or extended work hours can also contribute to burnout. It could be self-inflicted, or maybe corporate culture encourages it.
Working in an unhealthy work environment will drain your energy. No matter how the issue started, you will need to address it as this will affect the quality of your work and your life.
Many claim to fall sick more frequently when working in a toxic workplace. Stress and fatigue weaken the body’s immune system, making you more vulnerable to illness.
Your muscles may ache, you may feel like you have a cold, or excess stomach acid may cause you to develop ulcers. An employee will miss work if they are physically exhausted, adding to the stress of the situation.
8. Injuries from accidents
Approximately 300 million workplace injuries and 350,000 workers fatalities occur annually worldwide. Many disabilities are caused by violence, fires, explosions, slips, trips, and fall incidents. Additionally, they also cost employers a lot of money in compensation.
Most of these injuries could have been prevented with improved training, equipment and building a safety culture in your organization. Toxic workplaces can have physical effects, resulting in lost wages, missed work, and a lifelong inability to work in the most severe scenarios.
9. Negative outlook on Self
An unhealthy work environment may negatively affect your relationships. If you work in a toxic environment, you are more likely to criticize your job and yourself.
Your interactions with other people and with yourself may suffer. If you cannot get past this negative mindset, you will likely develop a drama and behavior addiction.
You will believe you fall short of your manager’s and the company’s expectations. In the long run, this will make you feel less confident.
Constantly dreading going to work causes anxiety, which can be challenging to manage. According to Very Well Mind, anxiety can make it difficult for employees to do their duties due to physical symptoms, including excessive worrying, jitteriness, shakiness, racing heartbeat, etc.
The paranoia that frequently accompanies anxiety can worsen anxiety in a toxic workplace by causing skipping work, negative thoughts, overreactions, and an inability to accomplish tasks.
How to fix & Improve an Unhealthy Work Environment?
Once you are aware of the signs of an unhealthy work environment, you must take action to fix the issues. Here are a few strategies for dealing with toxic workplaces and lowering high turnover rates:
1. Acknowledge the problem
Once you identify the issue, you must discuss it openly and honestly with your team. As a manager or leader, talk with your team about how to correct any issues and stop any detrimental behaviors. It would help if you reassured your employees that you would make efforts to improve the toxic workplace conditions.
2. Provide work-life balance
Workplace toxicity can be reduced and improved by putting a strong emphasis on work-life balance. Your employees’ physical health and emotional lives are being impacted by stress and depression.
To encourage your employees to preserve work-life balance, you must implement flexible work schedules, fewer workdays, paid vacations, etc. This will enhance their interactions at work and outside, enhancing overall satisfaction.
3. Provide soft skills training for all
You can help employees maintain a positive work environment by providing soft skill training.
This is especially crucial for businesses that are growing. Smaller teams make it simpler to identify potentially harmful behaviors. However, when teams grow, it becomes more difficult to manage everything.
Things like speaking up and communicating clearly in sensitive situations are things you can teach. Alternatively, you could teach your teams effective dispute resolution techniques. Provide workshops on empathy and regard for others to educate people on how to treat others respectfully.
4. Ensure fairness and justice at work
Employees’ perception of the level of justice in their job can be linked to workplace satisfaction, dedication, trust, and decreased turnover. Fairness is a crucial element of trust. Fairness is primarily concerned with whether or not workers feel they are competing on an even playing field.
There needs to be:
- Fair treatment for all job roles, equal chances, and fair compensation and profit sharing.
- Fair promotions and impartiality
- The right to contest unfair choices and receive fair treatment regardless of one’s characteristics.
5. Craft and enforce a policy for serious violations
Sexual harassment, racism, discrimination, and physical assault are serious violations. While crafting and enforcing a policy for serious violations, it is best to seek legal advice.
Doing this may demonstrate to employees that you will not stand for outright mistreatment and will take swift action to fix the issue. However, remember that a strict, zero-tolerance policy does not ensure you will not experience a hostile work environment.
Toxic work environments are more common than ever today. Irrespective of whether you can see it, it causes employees stress. Employers are also affected financially because of lost productivity and sick days.
The best way to deal with this is to remain composed, surround yourself with encouraging people, and make provisions for your employees.
By being aware of the telltale signs of a toxic workplace and knowing how to deal with them, you can make your workplace a healthier and more pleasant place for your employees.