You work hard - don't let your health take the toll

How would you rate the quality of your work situation? In the United Kingdom, the landscape of the professional world has changed dramatically in recent years. There are higher levels of self-employment due to unhappiness in traditional workplaces, more workers are on low-hour contracts and the overall rate of pay growth has been weak. Whilst this can clearly have a negative impact on your career, all of the above could have a negative impact on both your physical and mental health, as well.

Only 27% of working Brits reported "no negative aspects" in their current role, according to recent research from The Health Foundation. That means the remaining 73% of workers are dealing with some negative aspects in the workplace. But what does that mean in real terms? Let's take a closer look at what "low-quality work" is and why it could be playing havoc with your general health and well-being.

What is "low-quality work?"

As part of the previously mentioned study, researchers tried to pinpoint what makes a job "low-quality work." As they noted, it is hard to define high-quality work entirely, and by the same logic, there's not one clear thing that makes a work situation low-quality. However, negative aspects of your role could include:

Imbalance between effort and reward

In a perfect and fair world, the more effort you put into a job role, the more you will get out of it. That doesn't necessarily mean receiving a higher salary ‒ it could also mean more freedom in your job, better benefits, a higher title, and so on. However, when you find that you are working harder and not reaping more rewards, it can be difficult to stay motivated and keep moving forward.

Low pay rate

Being underpaid for the work that you do is an indicator that your position is low-quality work. As the researchers note, there has been a long period of weak pay growth in the UK. In simple terms, that means that many professionals are getting paid less than they should for their roles, regardless of their skill level.


Are you getting enough hours at work? If you work shifts, or have a zero-hour contract, you may find that you are underemployed. When you work on an hourly rate, changes to the amount of hours you're contracted or a cap on your shifts can lead to financial problems. As many as 2.4 million British workers are currently underemployed in this way.

Low job security

Certain types of contracts, such as zero-hour contracts and flexible contracts, also offer workers a low level of job security. Since these workers are not full-time staff members, they have fewer rights than other team members, and the chance that they will lose their role may be higher.

It doesn't end there. Self-employed individuals that work with large businesses, such as delivery drivers, get no employment rights, despite having to work regular shift patterns.

How does this type of work affect your health?

You don't have to be a scientist to understand that your health and your job are intrinsically linked. To prove this, researchers looked at people's self-reported health scores and measured them against the type of work they do.

For instance, 17% of workers with low job security reported that they did not have good health, with 13% reporting that they had "fair health" and 4% saying they had "poor health". This finding could be a result of the higher stress levels experienced by people who fear they may lose their jobs.

What's more, 12% of people with low pay also said that they did not experience good health, along with the same percentage of workers with low levels of autonomy (i.e. freedom in their role). These findings suggest that when workers are employed in low-quality positions that make them feel undervalued, it has a direct impact on their health.

It's important to note that these statistics are based on people's self-reporting rather than medical evidence, which means the actual impact on people's health may differ accordingly. That said, people's individual understanding of their own health still has value.

How can you protect your health?

Based on the study's findings, it's clear that there's a real need for policy change in the UK aimed at protecting workers' rights and improving the quality of jobs. In the meantime, there are ways you can protect your health.

Ensuring that you understand your rights is a step in the right direction; you can find useful information on employment rights on the government website. Take the time to learn more about what you should expect from your employer and speak to HR should you have a problem.

However, if you feel that your current role is hindering your health and working with HR cannot change that, it may be time to start looking for something new. Finding a more secure role or one that is appropriately paid could do wonders to improve your well-being. Why not upgrade your CV and start searching for jobs that will suit your skill set? Doing so could have a positive impact on all areas of your lifestyle, not least your health.

If it's time to start looking for a better job, a strong CV will be the trick to landing a new role. Learn more about working with a professional CV writer to improve your prospects.

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