The hidden costs of a job you loathe

aaravind

Have you ever had that 'Sunday night feeling' - the one where the very thought of work the next day spoils any chance you've got of switching off and enjoying your weekend? Well what about having that feeling every day of the week, not just on a Sunday? If you dread going into work, hate it and everything about it when you're there, you could soon find you're paying a very high cost for a job you clearly loathe.

"An accountant friend once tried to describe to me how much he hated his job. "I hate the walls, I hate the desks, I hate the plants in reception — I just hate that place so much", recalls Ruth Cornish.

"I've hated jobs too for different reasons. But when I felt like crying at the thought of going into the office and had that Sunday night feeling every night, when I stopped sleeping and started losing weight. I knew I had to do something," she adds.

Ruth, an HR consultant, has 20 years' experience and knows how having a job you loathe can eat you up, both from her own bitter experience and from that of her clients.

"We should all expect to have elements of any job that we don't enjoy, find boring, even dread doing a bit. But realistically that should not be more than 30% of our job," Ruth explains.

From poor working conditions, to plain old boredom, irritating or demanding colleagues, lack of job security, a shattering daily commute, uncompetitive pay and a total lack of interest in what you do, day in, day out, it can all have a negative impact on your work-life happiness - or rather unhappiness.

The fact is that being stuck in a job you hate with a vengeance is detrimental not only to your job satisfaction levels, career progression and general happiness, but ultimately your health and your wealth.

Workplace stress-related symptoms are very real and can affect all aspects of your physical being, from emotional to mental and behavioural problems. Over-drinking, over-eating and over-spending can all be symptoms of living with a job you loathe, as you seek ways to reward yourself and make yourself feel better.

And left unchecked these symptoms can lead to serious health and wealth problems, from alcoholism to debt-related problems and even the breakdown of relationships with family and friends. In the worst case scenario it can lead people to seek help for mental illness.

And it is a real problem. Private healthcare group BUPA, says workplace stress affects one in five working people, making it the biggest cause of sickness in the UK. It estimates that more than 105 million working days are lost each year because of work-related stress, and it says that nearly half a million people in the UK alone genuinely lay the blame for their illness or ailments on work-related stress.

As Ruth says: "It can become detrimental to our health - both physically and mentally - to our relationships, and worst of all to our confidence. Doing something we hate will mean we are not doing it well, and if this continues for too long our performance will suffer and we will become defined by it.

"This can lead to a poor career prognosis and may even blight the rest of your career so just like a health issue, you do need to give it serious consideration."

It's a well known fact among the medical profession that extreme and prolonged periods of stress have very real, physical side-effects. These can range from stomach ulcers and crippling back pain to, at the even more serious end of the spectrum, an increased risk of heart attacks, nervous disorders, and psychological problems.

So what can you do if you find yourself in this sort of rut? The first step is to work out exactly what is causing you the most unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Ruth says: "Try to understand why you hate your job so much. Speak to friends or colleagues or even your boss.

"Is it because of the type of work, the culture, the hours, and your colleagues or perhaps it is because you find it difficult? Often there is an easy solution right under your nose.

"Look for solutions in the workplace to make things feel better. If you don't get on with your boss, ask someone you respect to mentor you and act as a sounding board."

And talk to other people at work. Ruth says you could find they're in the same position as you. "Make friends and socialise with work colleagues. Often others can feel the same and a problem shared is a problem halved," she says.

Then make sure that your hatred of work doesn't start eating into your personal life. This means taking time to consciously 'switch off' from work. During the working day, take regular breaks and get away from the workplace, even for 10 minutes. Go for a walk round the block or read a good book. Do something you love in your spare time and give your mind and body a complete break from the daily grind.

As well as your mental well-being, it's also important to take care of your body and general health. Stress can adversely affect our immune systems, making us more prone to illness, so eating well and trying to get as much normal sleep as possible is important. A definite no-no is turning to drink as a form of escape. Ruth says avoid self-medicating with alcohol, cigarettes or drugs.

And as she also says, try to keep it in perspective. "Remember that a job is a job. No matter how important it is to be earning, staying in a job we hate longer term can have such a detrimental effect on our whole life it is never worth it.

"Think of it as a bad marriage. It's something that will get worse the more you avoid dealing with it."

If that's you, then it could be time to dust off your CV and start looking at other opportunities. "Look for another job and take control of your future. But take care to choose the right job in the right organisation. Ask lots of questions about the culture - before you sign on the dotted line," advises Ruth.