Friday, December 08, 2006

Hypertension 21: New Specialist Supports Less Stress At Work

Stress in any workplace, and its impact on workers, is a controversial issue. Ask any union representative. These days, many workplaces are dominated by pressure to produce. That can be fair enough, hey we have to compete, or provide good service to clients, or whatever--although at times the human element can be lost. Workers are people, not robots.

I think Scott Adams, who writes Dilbert, would agree.

Stress related to a disability is also controversial, although you'd think that there is a clear medical/scientific connection between the disability, the stress, and a negative impact on the patient. I had been cautioned most specialists would stay away from making a connection between Hypertension and workplace stress. In part this is because treatment of Hypertension involves one's entire lifestyle. It is not, as you have read on this blog, just a matter of popping pills. Treating Hypertension involves exercise, dieting and calming one's life generally--i.e. where possible, reducing stress.

It never made sense to me that stress in the workplace should not be linked with Hypertension. Anxiety can, temporarily, increase blood pressure. Who could doubt that? Whose heart has not 'pounded' in one's chest during a crisis? Does not a crisis include pressure to produce more and more (ask any worker who's producing more, and working more overtime, in the hope that his or her job will not be outsourced overseas)?

My friends, we spend about half our waking hours at work. How can it be that what happens at work does not have a direct impact on us? Think about it. We sleep for eight hours. We work for eight hours. That only leaves eight more hours for everything else, including shopping, eating, driving to and from work, and watching television to relax after working.

Denial that workplace stress has an impact on the worker, arguing that Hypertension is a 'lifestyle' issue with no relation to the workplace--that position certainly helps the employer avoid any responsibility for any negative workplace situations. Helps the employer but doesn't help the rest of us.

I'm writing this because today my union forwarded to me the letter sent by specialist number two. The letter I'd been waiting for. A short letter. Here is the key part:

"Mr. Schwartzman has a medical condition that is exacerbated by high levels of stress at work and this makes the treatment plan difficult. He is certainly adherent to our suggetions and follows our recommendations for treatment. It would be appreciated if there was an alternate arrangement such that there are lower levels of stress at work which would hopefully make the treatment plan more efficacious as well. We thank you for your cooperation in advance."

This should be the information my employer and union say theyneed to make a change in my workplace situation. If you have Hypertension, I hope it gives you something to look forward to, as well.

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