Although the economy is slowly improving, there is a huge amount of uncertainty left in the workplace. A recent article in the New York Times discusses the impact of job uncertainty on workplace safety.
It turns out that the fear of being unemployed is even worse than the reality, according to researchers at the University of Leuven in Belgium. This phenomenon, known as “Perceived Job Insecurity,” has more serious consequences than being actually unemployed.
A Gallup Poll in August 2013 showed that one-third of workers were afraid of being laid off. Five years earlier, only one-sixth of workers acknowledged being afraid of layoffs.
Job insecurity reduces mental and physical health, according to the University of Louven researcher. It was once thought that feeling a little insecure was a good thing and would inspire people to work harder. It turns out, however, that any amount of job insecurity is harmful.
When insecurity is present, workers suffer. They experience higher absentee rates, are less productive and are more vulnerable to injuries. A study at Washington State University found that workers who feel vulnerable pay less attention to safety, making it especially important for employers to pay attention to workers’ perceptions, even if there are no plans for layoffs.
Another factor that affects workplace safety is workers’ reluctance to report safety violations or injuries because they fear retaliation and job loss. Moreover, employees who think they might lose their jobs seldom participate in wellness programs and take advantage of employer-provided counseling. They are also less likely to take advantage of flex time programs or take sanctioned leave.