A demanding job may not in itself be bad for your health. But having a demanding job with a micromanaging boss could shave years off your life.
So suggests a new study from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, which tracked 2,363 Wisconsin residents in their 60s over a seven-year period.
Researchers found that people in highly demanding jobs with little control over their workflow were 15.4 percent more likely to die during the study period compared with people with less demanding jobs. Meanwhile, people in high-demand jobs who also had a high degree of control over their work lives had a 34 percent decrease in the likelihood of death compared with people in less demanding jobs.
"These findings suggest that stressful jobs have clear negative consequences for employee health when paired with low freedom in decision-making, while stressful jobs can actually be beneficial to employee health if also paired with freedom in decision-making," lead author Erik Gonzalez-Mulé, assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources at the Kelley School, said in a news release.
The study has been accepted for publication in the journal Personnel Psychology, according to the release.
While multiple studies have concluded that flexible workplace arrangements are good for employee happiness and productivity, this study goes a step further in suggesting that allowing employees to set their own goals and schedules may actually improve life expectancy.
The people in the stressful yet micromanaged jobs were heavier than their peers who enjoyed discretion over their jobs, so they might eat more or engage in unhealthy behaviors to cope with the stress — while, alternatively, those with high control might find the stress energizing, the authors said.
A quarter of the research subjects who died were in frontline service jobs, and 32 percent had manufacturing jobs — often challenging environments for introducing flexible working arrangements.
Cancer was the leading cause of death among those in the research sample. The study controlled for demographic and socioeconomic status.
The study used data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Survey, which followed individuals who graduated from high school in 1957, and analyzed those who had not yet retired from 2004 to 2011 — so it only examined the work conditions of people in their 60s.
Future research could follow people earlier in their careers to see if younger workers cope better with demanding, low-control jobs or if the strain has long-term effects, the release said.