Autonomy: Health Benefits of Having Control at Work

I’m very interested in statistics that demonstrate differences in longevity between people.  Just as there is an increasing move towards personal KM, I feel that there should be a similar move towards personal foresight so that individuals can maximise their chances of living healthy and fulfilling lives.  There has been recent press that we might be one of the first generations to not live as long as their parents due to obesity related disorders (diabetes, cancer, etc), a terrible indictment on us.

Some of the claims for longevity includes social standing and income.  The Whitehall studies of UK civil servants by Michael Marmot showed a dramatic difference in disease between those at the top of hierarchy and those at the bottom. When adjustments were made for lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking, physical activity, obesity and social support, a strong relationship still existed which was attributed to control of destiny; hence the lower down you are in social class standing, the less opportunity and training you have to influence the events that impinge on your life, leading to stress and sickness.

In some respects, this is similar to Martin Seligman’s notion of “learned helplessness” when people become passive when they feel there is little they can do to influence their environment.  There is a public service term for this – “POPO” – passed over and pissed off – referring to staff who hang around pass their use by date, not doing much work and affecting the morale of others. 

Providing autonomy at work will lead to less stress and less sickness than rampant managerialism with bosses bossing people around.  This will have greater benefit that just providing more money as wages which counteracts the push for wage bargaining when many people would prefer a positive work environment with greater autonomy than perhaps a job with more money but not much autonomy. 

It’s more than just managers empowering staff, it is providing them with the capabilities and freedom to decide on their own work priorities.  Autonomy provides the opportunity for control over your own life, including your own health and wellbeing – and there are not many things more important than that! As with many things that improve wellbeing, the benefits plateau after a certain amount has been granted and more may not realise additional benefit.

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One Response to Autonomy: Health Benefits of Having Control at Work

  1. Riki says:

    Well done you have very interesting blogroll. Thanx

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