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How Work Can Be Hazardous To Your Health


People spend a lot of their time at work, people often find friends on the job, and what people do is an important source of their social identity and status. Simply put, work matters. Consequently, the conditions of work matter, too. Work can be an important source of stress and strain in people’s lives, whether that stress comes from long working hours, work-family conflict, the economic insecurity that derives from the threat of layoffs or fluctuating wages and hours, or not having control over one’s work environment.

Not surprisingly, I and some operations research colleagues have found that toxic workplace conditions are as harmful for mortality, having a physician-diagnosed illness, and self-reported physical and mental health as exposure to second-hand smoke, a regulated known carcinogen. We also estimated that approximately 120,000 people a year die from workplace conditions—and I am not talking about physical exposures such as accidents or harmful chemicals—and that the workplace is responsible for almost $200 billion annually in incremental health care costs.

I am writing a book on this issue of the workplace and human sustainability. Although there is enormous epidemiological evidence on this topic, I am seeking personal examples of how people’s work has made them ill and/or stressed. If you are willing to share your story or example, contact me at to explore setting up a (recorded) telephone interview. I can offer you anonymity if you so desire, and if requested, will also not mention the name of your employer.

Sharing your story can help bring the problem of harmful workplaces to light and just possibly stimulate employer and policy interventions to limit the physical and economic damage.

pfeffer-2l-bio-imageDr. Jeffrey Preffer
Dr. Jeffrey Pfeffer is the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University where he has taught since 1979. He is the author or co-author of 14 books.