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NIOSH Interviews CSE Filmmakers

Below is an excerpt from our interview. The NIOSH Total Worker Health newsletter reaches 70,000+ individuals across the country and abroad. To read the entire interview, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/twh/newsletter/twhnewsv6n3.html#2

Why did you decide to create Working on Empty?

Many people have been researching the impact of work on health for decades. A substantial body of literature shows that working conditions impact the mental and physical well-being of workers. Work plays a major role in burnout, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

We believe that the public, in general, doesn’t understand well the relationship between work and health. There is a belief that stress is good because it helps you work harder and be more productive. However, if we are chronically stressed from work—e.g. because of feeling threatened by job insecurity, being unclear about the criteria for performance evaluations, not having enough control at work, etc. —it leads to hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and other illnesses.

One intent in making the film is to point out that stress related to work and poor working conditions is not inevitable. The poor health outcomes that we just described are partly the consequence of the way work is organized. They are preventable, and we need to do something to prevent them. Companies feel a constant pressure to increase productivity, some by going “lean” and, as a result, people are working harder and longer. We believe that many businesses don’t understand the consequences when they increase work demands. It results in worse health and more disability claims, absenteeism, sick days, and presenteeism. Productivity goes down when work hours exceed 40 hours per week. If companies knew more about these costs, they could rethink how they manage work, avoid situations with excessive demands, and increase engagement.

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