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Dying for a Paycheck

How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance—and What We Can Do About It

By Jeffrey Pfeffer
12-minute read
Audio available
Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance—and What We Can Do About It by Jeffrey Pfeffer

Dying for a Paycheck (2018) reveals that 120,000 American die every year because of work-related health issues. This makes work the fifth leading cause of death in the United States – and as dangerous as second-hand smoke. But things could be different, as a number of companies have demonstrated. Backed up by hard facts and the author’s years of expertise, Dying for a Paycheck presents timely solutions for a pressing issue.

  • CEOs and managers looking to improve employees’ health
  • Employees looking to understand how work affects their well-being
  • Policymakers wanting to implement positive change in American workplaces

Jeffrey Pfeffer is an American business theorist and currently the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University. He is a recipient of the Richard D. Irwin Award for his contributions to management theory and is the author of numerous books, including The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First (1998) and Managing with Power: Politics and Influence in Organizations (1992).

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Dying for a Paycheck

How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance—and What We Can Do About It

By Jeffrey Pfeffer
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
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Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance—and What We Can Do About It by Jeffrey Pfeffer
Synopsis

Dying for a Paycheck (2018) reveals that 120,000 American die every year because of work-related health issues. This makes work the fifth leading cause of death in the United States – and as dangerous as second-hand smoke. But things could be different, as a number of companies have demonstrated. Backed up by hard facts and the author’s years of expertise, Dying for a Paycheck presents timely solutions for a pressing issue.

Key idea 1 of 7

Stressful workplaces can adversely affect our health, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Most of us have experienced stress in the workplace. The statistics agree. In fact, studies show that workplace stress is getting increasingly worse and shows no sign of abating. The American Institute of Stress reported that a staggering 80 percent of Americans experience regular stress at work.

But if workplace stress is such a widespread phenomenon, then what are the consequences?

In short, work can be detrimental to one’s health. For example, according to Fortune magazine, Salesforce is meant to be one of the best companies to work for in the United States. But numerous anecdotal reports from employees show a different side to the company.

One unnamed employee who joined the company as a manager was soon compelled to take antidepressants to cope with the stressful work environment. Her constantly changing schedule and demanding job meant she often had to work – or travel for work – on weekends. To cope with all this, she ended up spending around $2,000 a month on therapy and a personal trainer.

But not everyone can afford such coping techniques, particularly in the fast-growing gig economy.

The gig economy is characterized by precarious short-term contracts and often low wages; some have predicted that 40 percent of the American workforce will be gig economy workers by 2020. The economic uncertainty of such work, combined with little to no paid time off, led to a review of 93 studies concluding that gig-economy work leads to decreased safety on the job, as well as a decline in workers’ overall health.

But things don’t have to be this way.

An inspiring example of companies trying to do things differently is Aetna. After CEO Mark Bertolini suffered a terrible skiing accident in 2004, he developed an interest in health. This made him rethink his company’s attitude to employee well-being.

In 2015, Aetna instituted a minimum hourly wage of $16, leading to a 33 percent pay increase for the company’s lowest earners. This, combined with improved employee health insurance and free meditation classes, led to employees reporting 28 percent less stress and 20 percent better quality of sleep.

What’s more, the company’s healthcare costs decreased, showing that caring about employees’ well-being can result in a win-win situation on both sides of the paycheck.

Sadly, companies like Aetna are few and far between. As we’ll see in the blinks that follow, workplace stress extracts an enormous toll on people worldwide.

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