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Many Americans report that their workplace is gruelling, stressful and surprisingly hostile, a major US study has found.
US employees often face bullying and are forced to carry out repetitive labour tasks that take them longer than their working hours to complete, according to the in-depth study of 3,066 US workers by Harvard Medical School, the University of California, and Rand Corporation.
Nearly one in five workers said they face a hostile or threatening environment at work, which can include sexual harassment and bullying, while workers who have to face customers reported receiving a disproportionate amount of abuse.
The in-depth study of 3,066 US workers by Harvard Medical School, the University of California, and Rand Corporation, also revealed that nearly 55 per cent were facing “unpleasant and potentially hazardous” conditions.
About half said they work in their own time to meet the demands of their job.
Nearly three quarters said they spend at least a quarter of their time on the job in “intense or repetitive physical” labour.
“I was surprised at how physically demanding jobs were,” said lead author Nicole Maestas, a Harvard Medical School economist;
Telecommuting is rare: 78 per cent said they are required to be present in their workplace during working hours.
Only 38 per cent said their job offered good prospects for advancement, and the older they get, the less optimistic they become.
“Wow – (work) is pretty taxing place for many people,” Ms Maestas said. “I was surprised by how pressured and hectic the workplace is.”
In many cases, less-educated workers endure tougher working conditions. For example, fewer than half of men without college degrees can take a break whenever they want to, compared with more than 76 per cent of men with college degrees.
Likewise, nearly 68 per cent of men without degrees spend at least a quarter of their time moving heavy loads.
Ms Maestas said she wondered whether toxic working conditions are keeping Americans out of the labour force.
The percentage of Americans who are working or looking for work – 62.9 in July – has not returned to pre-recession levels and is well below its 2000 peak of 67.3 per cent.
The unemployment rate is at a 16-year low, and many employers complain they cannot fill jobs.
“There’s a message for employers here,” Ms Maestas said. “Working conditions really do matter.”
But not everything about American workplaces is grim.
Workers enjoy considerable autonomy – more than 80 per cent say they get to solve problems and try out their own ideas. 58 per cent said their bosses were supportive, and 56 per cent have good friends at work.
Researchers plan to conduct another next year and eventually to draw comparisons between US and European working conditions.
Additional reporting by Associated Press
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