We dedicate almost a third of our life to work, so it is not surprising that the air we breathe in our work environment has a significant influence on our mood and even affects our mental balance in the long term. A pleasant work environment will allow us to work more relaxed and feel fulfilled, but a toxic environment can take a heavy toll.
A toxic work environment can make us depressed
Researchers from the University of South Australia looked at psychological health and safety in the workplace. They agreed that while working long hours can be harmful to physical health, psychologically toxic work environments pose a great emotional risk.
After screening more than 1,000 full-time workers in organizations that did not prioritize their mental health, they found that employees have a three times greater risk of being diagnosed with depression. They also appreciated that men are more vulnerable than women as they are more likely to become depressed when working in a toxic environment.
These psychologists concluded that “Companies that do not reward or recognize their employees for their hard work, place unreasonable demands on them, and do not give them autonomy, are exposing their staff at a much higher risk of depression.”
What exactly is a toxic work environment?
Toxic work environments are those in which employees do not have opportunities to continue growing professionally, but feel stagnant because the company’s career system does not reward effort and talent.
A toxic work environment is also one that places excessive demands that end up generating great stress on employees. Although these tasks are remunerated, they prevent the necessary rest of the worker, so that he or she ends up physically and emotionally exhausted.
In toxic work environments there is also no fluid communication. Bosses exercise an authoritarian direction in which there is no room for new proposals, creativity or changes, so that employees feel like mere pawns without any decision-making capacity. This prevents them from developing a sense of belonging to the organization and feeling satisfied with their work.
A toxic work environment, in short, is that in which employees feel underappreciated, overwhelmed by the number of tasks, unable to grow, and often harassed by an organizational culture with which they do not share anything. Favoritism, lack of respect for the worker’s personal life, absence of clear boundaries, gossip, and unprofessional attitudes among employees are easing such an unhealthy environment.
The road to job depression
The path to depression from a toxic job often begins with personal dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction occurs when our professional expectations are not met. If our work is not pleasant or rewarding and we do not feel comfortable in the work environment, we easily accumulate frustrations.
When exhaustion due to excessive demands is added to professional disaffection, is generated the seed of depression. We lose motivation and the desire to get up every morning because the daily outlook is always the same. So we go into a loop. We become alienated and our performance plummets, as we increasingly strive to meet demands that are impossible to meet. This creates even more tension for us, which in turn exacerbates feelings of apathy and depression.
The worst part is that we generally cannot leave those problems and worries at work, but instead we take them home. Thus the work ends up taking away our sleep, souring our mood and plunging us into depression.
Zadow, A. J. et. Al. (2021) Predicting new major depression symptoms from long working hours, psychosocial safety climate and work engagement: a population-based cohort study. BMJ Open; 11: e044133.