How we treat unhealthy workplace culture is perhaps very similar to how we treat climate change. We treat the unhealthy workplace culture and its impact as a negative externality of the productive & efficient workplace, similarly to how we treat the climate change as a negative externality of the productive & efficient economy.
The Parallel Between Climate Change & Unhealthy Workplace Culture
Let’s take an example of the air pollution, which is one of many issues for the climate change. The cost of air pollution to society is not paid by either the producers or users of motorized transport to the rest of society. All consumers are made worse off by pollution but are not compensated by the market for this damage. After all, it will hurt everyone — consumers & producers. However, the change happens very slowly because the producers of the air pollution aren’t incentivized to be the change agents in the current economic system. As a result, we’re suffering globally now, with rising temperature and extreme weather patterns.
The same is true for unhealthy workplace culture. The cost of stress, dehumanizing competition, and burnout from unhealthy workplace culture is “hidden” and “indirect” from the company perspective. These are NOT considered meaningful factors to the bottomline of the company. Therefore, the workplace wellbeing is not one of the C-Suite agenda for companies. At best, companies consider it employee benefits or perks to be more competitive in attracting talents, but they don’t see it as a strategic lever for the company’s future.
Shifting Perspective on Workplace Wellbeing
How the climate change is unfolding now implies so much about today’s systemic attitude toward unhealthy workplace culture. We need to take it as seriously as the technology investment such as AI. This perspective shift is essential for the future of work.