Work is not working

I have the pleasure of working with John Ryan on writing a book about a healthy place to work. A super cool concept John Ryan developed after he met Jeffrey Pfeffer, the author of “Dying for a paycheck”. So I picked up the book. Below is a quick and dirty review. 

The statistics are horrific

  • The American Institute of Stress maintains that job stress costs US employers more than $300 billion annually.
  • 50% of people have changed jobs to escape the stress
  • The number of people killed in work-related violence while at the workplace is “more than were killed by fires and explosions, getting caught in equipment or machinery and exposure to harmful substances combined.”
  • More people have heart attacks on Monday morning than at other times during the week, maybe because they are back at work after the weekend.
  • The more than one hundred UK business schools do not teach on health, employee engagement, and well-being in any of their courses.
  • Only 12% of employees strongly agree that they have substantially higher overall well-being because of their employer.
  • 88% of all people in this country feel they work for an organisation that does not care about them.
  • The job quality in most European countries has progressively deteriorated,
  • 70% of the more than two trillion dollars annual healthcare spending was accounted for by people with chronic diseases. 
  • In total, workplace environments in the United States may be responsible for 120 thousand excess deaths per year—which would make workplaces the fifth leading cause of death.
  • In Australia, workplace stress costs the economy about $14.8 billion a year, according to one estimate, with work pressure, harassment, and bullying comprising some 75% of psychological injury claims.
  • At least one million people in China currently die from overwork each year.
  • The authors of the book estimate that the incremental healthcare costs from stress-inducing work conditions are about $190 billion annually,

Work is killing you

It is outrageous. Health is a fundamental human right. In well-functioning systems, people are well and live long. However, too many workplaces are harmful to people’s health. It is worse than that. You are probably working for a toxic, health-destroying workplace. Most current management practices make you sick and possibly even kill you. It is not very clever because harmful management practices and unhealthy workplaces do not improve organisational profitability or performance.


Stress is getting worse for almost all jobs, resulting in an ever-higher physical and psychological toll. That stress is making you sick, and some of you might even end up in hospital because of that stress. You might be confronted with impossible work demands that drive drugs and/or alcohol. You have no or limited health insurance; You are under threat from high blood pressure. You are a candidate for a heart attack or a stroke.


Work is jeopardising your relationship with your partner and your children as well as their physical and mental health. You might even pick up a post-traumatic stress disorder. You are constantly facing family-to-work and work-to-family issues, and you have little social support.


You are under pressure, there is too much work given, too lean staffing levels, and there is the unrelenting pressure from supervisors to complete the impossible workload. You are not too sure about job security and have little decision-making discretion. The threat of being fired at any moment for any performance slip up or political miscue is always there.

Poor working conditions

The working conditions are poor. You are seen as capital (Human resource capital) and/or a cost. You should know that the person you report to at work, is more important for your health than your family doctor. And the person you work for is probably a d*ck. You might on low wages, do shift work, and have no job control. You might be worried about money. There might be bullying and harassment, there might have been suicides, and you might have been exposed to workplace violence.

Day and night

You answer e-mails in the evening, and you find yourself working at the weekends. Your average workweek (if you are honest) is more than 40 weeks, and this is without taking travelling from and to work into consideration.


Your company is more concerned about sustainability than it cares about you. ESG is tokenism and has no reflection on being treated at work. (HR- PR). Human sustainability is not a factor or reported on in the annual reports.

Programmes do not work

The high-commitment or high-performance programmes have resulted in little to no positive change. In fact, they have added to the pressures. Engagement and trust are low. The workplace wellness programs do not work very well because of other poor habits in the company. 

It makes no business sense

Unhealthy workplaces diminish employee engagement, increase staff turnover, reduce job performance, drive up health insurance and healthcare costs. Many workplaces have management practices that neither serve your interest nor the employers interest.


I mention climate change earlier. The comparison with climate change and sustainability is quickly made. The same way companies have been bad for the environment, and they are bad for you. Increasingly you see companies debarring triple bottom line and ESG. But it needs to go further (as with climate change). 


Full natural capital costs need to be taken into consideration. Our current profit and loss model does not take into account the actual cost of activities to the climate and to people. 

Healthy Place to Work

Hence Healthy Place to Work. Helping to move to a preventative and restorative model. It is more important than you think. If you want to find out more, contact me directly, or contact John Ryan. You will be impressed.

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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