What is the Healthy Work Campaign?

The Healthy Work Campaign (HWC) is a public health campaign focused on raising awareness in the U.S. about the health impacts of work stress on working people. The campaign also focuses on the positive actions stakeholders (both individuals and organizations) throughout the U.S. can take to advance #healthywork.

What is your mission?

Our mission is to reduce harmful work stressors and improve job quality & health in the U.S. (Visit Mission for more info)

What are your goals?

Our goals are to:

  1. EDUCATE working people and other stakeholders (employers, labor leaders, regulators, journalists, educators, and others) about how work in the U.S. impacts our psychological and physical health, as well as the social and financial costs to our organizations, communities, and nation. We also want all stakeholders to learn about the many solutions that are available to promote healthy work.
  2. ASSESS the workplace for unhealthy work stressors, using online, user-friendly tools available to both individuals and organizations. The HWC is developing a Healthy Work Survey, an online, work stress assessment tool that will provide individuals or organizations with a detailed and tailored report about their unique levels of work stress.
  3. EQUIP workers and organizations with Healthy Work Tools including interventions that can be used to promote healthy work, healthy organizations and healthy people.
  4. INSPIRE ACTION from all stakeholders—to share the message about healthy work, implement organizational change, and participate collectively to promote healthy work throughout the U.S.

What is ‘healthy work’?

‘Healthy work’ minimizes toxic work stressors that take a toll on the health and productivity of working people. Healthy work is respectful, just, more sustainable, and promotes health and well-being. (See Research for more info.)

Separately, #healthywork is the growing hashtag most commonly associated with the movement to promote healthy work for individuals and organizations.

What are the benefits of ‘healthy work’?

‘Healthy work’ benefits individuals and organizations primarily by reducing harmful work stressors and improving health and well-being. (See Principles of Healthy Work for more info.) A robust and growing literature provides scientific evidence that interventions to reduce ‘unhealthy work’ can be beneficial for the health, well-being, and productivity of working people.

What is ‘unhealthy work’?

‘Unhealthy work’ is a shorthand term for work organized in a way which chronically exposes working people to work stressors. (See Principles of Healthy Work for more info.)

What are work stressors?

Threatening or challenging experiences in our everyday world, whether at work or at home, are called “stressors.” They provoke a natural, biological “fight or flight stress response” which increases our heart rate, respiration and releases cortisol and other stress hormones. While this ‘stress response’ is a ‘biopsychosocial’ experience involving an individual’s cognitive appraisal of a threat, the sources of stress at work (“work stressors”) are not just in your head—they are caused by the way work is organized and are amenable to change.

Why are work stressors ‘unhealthy’?

When we are chronically exposed to “stressors” at work (excessive workloads, a lack of control [job strain], hostile or unsupportive relationships with supervisors or coworkers, effort-reward imbalance, work-family conflict etc.), the effects of the short-term stress response accumulate and can lead to “mental distress.” Over the long term, this can lead to burnout and depression, as well as to physical changes in our bodies including permanent increases in blood pressure, inflammatory responses leading to cardiovascular changes, and even changes in our metabolism and autonomic nervous system. See here for more information.

What are the costs of ‘unhealthy work’ to individuals?

‘Unhealthy work’ costs individuals physically, psychologically, financially and socially. The everyday stress of long work hours, high demands, low job control, job insecurity, a lack of fairness or work-family conflict, can pose a real threat to health, well-being and even life span (they can shorten your life by up to 3 years), increasing your risk for burnout, depression, high blood pressure and even heart disease. The costs of these health problems related to work stress are being passed on to individuals in terms of higher healthcare premiums and deductibles, making access to healthcare in the U.S. more out of reach than ever.

See Stats to Know for more info.

What are the costs of ‘unhealthy work’ to organizations?

‘Unhealthy work’ costs organizations financially in several ways.

When workers experience work-related psychosocial stressors, such as excessive workloads, a lack of say or voice (job control), inadequate supervisor or coworker support, job insecurity, or long work hours, they also report poorer physical and mental health, are less engaged, and are more likely to come to work sick with decreased work quality (presenteeism) or take sick leave (absenteeism). By some conservative estimates, just the healthcare costs of work stressors are 5-8% of annual health care costs ($180 billion annually). (Goh et al, Management Science, February 2016)

But unhealthy work costs organizations more than just increased healthcare premiums. The added, indirect costs to companies include the costs of increased absenteeism/sick leave, disability management, diminished productivity at work (presenteeism), and employee turnover which is estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars.  (Jauregui and Schnall. Unhealthy Work: Causes, Consequences, Cures, 2009)

See the Business Costs of Unhealthy Work for more info.

What are the top statistics I should know about ‘unhealthy work’?

  1. 1 out of 3 say they typically feel tense or stressed out during the workday. (APA, 2016)
  2. 3 out of 5 Americans say that work is a significant source of stress. (APA, 2017)
  3. Those working 11+ hours per day are 2-3 times more likely to experience depression. (PO, 2012)
  4. Those with high levels of work stress (job strain, effort-reward imbalance) are twice as likely to think about committing suicide than those with no or limited amounts of work stress. (JPR, 2016)
  5. 10-20% of all cardiovascular disease (CVD) in working age populations is related to the way we work. (IJOMEH, 2015)
  6. More than 120,000 deaths per year are associated with how U.S. companies manage workers. (MS, 2016)

Where can I read more statistics about unhealthy work?

Check out our Stats & Infographs and our Stats to Know pages. 

What research has informed your claims?

The Healthy Work Campaign is committed to sharing with the #healthywork community all of our references and foundational research publications, acknowledging the large, global community of researchers and organizations who have informed our education campaign and related tools. We strive to give credit where credit is due, as well as reassure you of the substance of this campaign. Please visit our Research page for our references and other essential info.

Who started this campaign?

The Center for Social Epidemiology (CSE), a Los Angeles-based non-profit organization founded in 1988, initiated the HWC in 2018 to expand the public health mission of the CSE and other organizations dedicated to improving the quality of work in the U.S. Visit our Mission and Team pages to learn more.

The Center has a longstanding relationship with the Centers for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) at UC Irvine and UCLA, and recently joined the NIOSH Total Worker Health® Affiliate Program, dedicated to protecting and promoting the health and well-being of working people.

Who are your partners?

See our growing list of Partners, which include Envisia Learning, HealthyWorkplaces, Optimal Performance Strategies, Southern California Education and Research Center, The Workplace Bullying Institute, and WorkSafe.

Who is your audience?

Our audience includes all healthy work stakeholdersanyone who cares about the impact of work on the health and well-being of working individuals, organizations and society, including (but not limited to): individuals, organizations, labor organizations, occupational health and safety professionals, public health advocates, healthcare professionals, educators, and public policymakers.

How do I share my work story?

Visit our Share Your Story page to access our Share Your Story form and share a short account of your work-related experiences. You are welcome to submit stories anonymously or use a pseudonym.

The Healthy Work Campaign is looking for your stories about work to share on the HWC website (and potentially for use in our multimedia content and feature-length documentary). Please be sure to check out the Share Your Story terms & conditions before submitting to us.

What are your public policy objectives?

Currently our public policy objectives are suggestions-based, focused on local initiatives and policies. Visit our Take Action – Advocate page for more ideas on healthy work advocacy in and outside of the U.S.

What can I do to make a difference?

You can Join the #healthywork movement, Pledge your support for our campaign, and Share Your Story. Visit Take Action for more ideas.

What are the terms & conditions of using this website and materials?

You can find our Terms of Use agreement on our Terms & Conditions page. When you use our website, you agree to these terms.

What is the privacy policy for this website and materials?

You can find our privacy policy on our Privacy page. There, and generally speaking, we intend to reassure you of our utmost respect for your privacy.

Do you have a medical disclaimer?

Yes. The contents of this website, such as text, graphics, images, videos, tools, and other material contained on the website (“Content”), are for informational purposes only and do not constitute, nor should they be considered a substitution for,  medical advice.

The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The Site and the Content are provided on an “as is” basis.” Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk.

Do you have a shorter version of this page?

Yes. Please download and check out our HWC Quick FAQs.

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