Most of us know that stressful jobs can wreck our health.
But it seems if you have control over your workflow it can actually be better for you.
Researchers followed more than 10,000 workers in their sixties from 2004. The stress of their job was measured by asking employees – regardless of their income or managerial status – how hard they worked, how much they needed to concentrate and if they were asked to do too much.
Seven years later, those who worked in high-stress, low-control jobs were most likely to have died. But surprisingly, being in a stressful job with control over your workflow and the freedom to set your own goals was found to be better for health.
Workers in more demanding jobs, where they had this control, were 34 per cent less likely to die than those in less stressful careers.
Lead authorErik Gonzalez-Mulé said: ‘These findings suggest that stressful jobs have clear negative consequences for employee health when paired with low freedom in decision-making, while stressful jobs can actually be beneficial to employee health if also paired with freedom in decision-making.’
Cancer was found to be the leading cause of death among the study group, with stress known to be a risk factor. People also died from circulatory diseases, with the authors speculating that the stressed may overeat and smoke as a coping mechanism.
But the researchers said it doesnot necessarily suggest employers need to cut back on what is expected from their employees.
Rather, they demonstrate the value in restructuring some jobs to provide employees with more say about how work gets done.
Professor Gonzalez-Mule said: ‘You can avoid the negative health consequences if you allow them to set their own goals, set their own schedules, prioritise their decision-making and the like.’
He recommended that employees have a say in setting their own goals, ‘so when you’re telling someone what they’re going to do it’s more of a two-way conversation.’
The study, published in the journal Personnel Psychology, also found people in high-stress, low-control jobs were more likely to be overweight.