Depression linked to office injustices, not work load

Recent research shows that stress and depression related to work are primarily related to a sense of injustice and inequality in the workplace, not high workload.

Matias Brødsgaard Grynderup, a psychologist at Aarhus University and one of the researchers, said,

We may have a tendency to associate depression and stress with work pressure and workload; however, our study shows that the workload actually has no effect on workplace depression. This suggests that the risk of workplace depression cannot be minimised by changing the workload. […] When high levels of work pressure and depression appear to be linked in people’s consciousness, it is not because a heavy workload increases the risk of depression. Or that’s not what we found in our study. Instead, depression can make work assignments appear insurmountable, even though the depression was not caused by the workload.

The study was based on questionnaires from 4,500 public employees in  Denmark, and the researchers also interviewed most to determine who was suffering from clinical depression. What they determined is a strong correlation with a sense of workplace injustice — people being treated unfairly — and a lack of clarity about management objectives and organizational dynamics.

One of the most critical aspects of turning down the pressures in the workplace if making as much as possible transparent. In the most progressive companies, that can include information about pay scales, bonuses, performance reviews, and so on. The convenient fiction about keeping such matters private is that employees don’t want that information shared, but the dirty secret is that it allows inequity to go unexamined. For example, in many industries women continue to be paid less for doing equivalent work as men, and this is likely to persist if management opts to conceal it. A great deal of what goes on in business as being ‘the way things are done, here’ can be better cast as ‘the way things are done to people, here’.