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Is work good for you?

September 01, 2000

Is work good for you?



By MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer


There's a lot of building that can be done in the workplace.

Building self-esteem. Building confidence. Building knowledge.

Careers also are significant in forming identity, said Tom Beecroft, a licensed psychologist in Hagerstown and a psychology professor at Hagerstown Community College. He said work is the No. 1 issue in identity formation for men and ranks No. 2 or 3 for women, behind mates and children.

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"Work is worn as a badge of honor," Beecroft said.

A satisfying vocation can provide a sense of accomplishment, which makes people feel good about themselves and what they do.

"It's really the excitement of being able to see progress," said Anne Pauker, a specialist in human resources issues and founder of The Pauker Consulting Group in Princeton Junction, N.J.

Expectations in the workplace can create good stress, said Elizabeth Koontz, coordinator of the associate and baccalaureate degree programs in nursing at Penn State Mont Alto in Mont Alto, Pa. Such stress creates energy and a sense of well-being, she said, which can filter into other aspects of life.

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Studies have shown, for instance, that working women are healthier and happier than those who are homemakers, except when there is a child younger than age 2 in the family, Beecroft said.

While the mental benefits of a career that matches a person's character are important to note, earning money also is a positive incentive to work.

"Income enables people to afford the things that really are important to them," Beecroft said.

There may be some physical pluses, too, including speeding up the healing process for those recuperating from injuries, Pauker said.

The pitfalls of work


The negative effects are more commonly noticed, however.

"Every system of the body can be affected by stress, both positive and negative," said Koontz, who works part time as a counselor at Cumberland Valley Mental Health Center in Chambersburg, Pa.

Being unable to cope with dissatisfaction and pressures in the workplace can take a toll on a person's health, Koontz said.

The best predictors for illness include prolonged physical labor, doing tedious tasks, being overloaded, working long hours, rotating shifts and deadline pressure, Beecroft said. Other problems that cause stress include conflicts with supervisors, sexual harassment or discrimination, he said.

Such struggles can result in stress-related disorders like high blood pressure, ulcers, depression and anxiety.

Those who thrive on stress likely won't experience the negative side effects, Beecroft said.

There are consequences to loving work too much, however.

"Work can become an addiction," and one that is socially acceptable, Koontz said.

People who are avoiding the anxiety, sadness or frustration that permeates other parts of their lives can lose themselves in their work, Beecroft said.

"It's a haven for them," he said.

Technology doesn't help, either, as fax machines, cell phones and computers make it easier to always be on the job, Beecroft said.

Being a workaholic comes with a price.

"The costs are more social," Beecroft said, including loss of family, limited support systems and illness.

The job you do is bad for you if:
HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> You feel like you're not connecting with people you value.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> It is keeping you from family and friends.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> You're always thinking about the next project.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> You take your briefcase on vacation.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> You feel that your capabilities are not being recognized in the workplace.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> You are constantly being criticized.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> You feel no control over your work situation, including amounts of work and number of hours spent doing it.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> You're not learning anything.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> You dread going.

The job you do is good for you if:
HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> It energizes you and gives you a sense of well-being.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> You feel respected.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> You're learning at work.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> You feel comfortable there.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> You get good feedback from your boss, co-workers and the public.

- Sources: Tom Beecroft, a licensed psychologist in Hagerstown and a psychology professor at Hagerstown Community College;

Elizabeth Koontz, coordinator of the associate and baccalaureate degree programs in nursing at Penn State Mont Alto in Mont Alto, Pa.;

Anne Pauker, founder of The Pauker Consulting Group in Princeton Junction, N.J.

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