How a Toxic Work Environment Affects Your Physical Health

Workplace health research generally focuses on how work environments affect employees’ mental health. However, a hostile work environment may also have physical effects on your health. A toxic work environment is one in which you don’t feel safe, respected, or heard. 

If your rights are violated, you may need to request legal help to deal with your work situation. In some cases, your physical or mental health may be so negatively affected by the unhealthy environment that you need to file a workers’ compensation claim to seek medical treatment.

For example, a supervisor who raises their voice or uses abusive language with workers creates a toxic work environment that’s likely to negatively affect employees, both mentally and physically. Find out more about the negative physical effects you may experience when you work in a hostile environment and strategies to combat this work-related stress.


Stress is exhausting and you’re likely to feel it if you work in a negative environment. Even if your job doesn’t involve heavy lifting or being on your feet all day, you may come home from work feeling extremely fatigued if your co-workers, supervisors, or job are toxic. 

This tiredness may result from job burnout, which uses up all your internal energy, even if you don’t seem to use your physical energy. To combat this fatigue, be sure you’re getting enough sleep at night and eating healthy foods throughout the day. If your employer is open to fixing worker fatigue, they should consider providing regular employee schedules, offering frequent breaks during shifts, and allowing short naps during work hours, if possible.

Upset Stomach

Stress may also affect your digestive system since your gut and your brain are directly connected. The physical effects of stress impact the bacteria in your gut. When a toxic work environment stresses you out, you may experience:

  • Nausea;
  • Stomach pain;
  • Bloating;
  • Heartburn;
  • Bowel cramps;
  • Diarrhea. 

Try to counteract your daily work stresses by eating a healthy diet, maintaining social relationships with friends and family, engaging in physical activity, and getting enough sleep. Voice your concerns to your employer so they can attempt to address the employees or supervisors who are causing you the most stress and stomach issues.

Heart Problems

If you’re dealing with a toxic boss, you’ve become the victim of workplace bullying, or your job expectations are overwhelming, you may experience heart problems from stress. Employees who don’t trust their work environment are more likely to suffer from cardiac events than those who felt comfortable performing their jobs each day.

Job loss or the potential for job loss may also trigger negative physical effects, including heart problems. The risk for a heart attack is 35% higher in those who are unemployed when compared to those who feel confident in keeping their jobs. 

If your employer isn’t creating an open and trusting work environment or you fear for your job, have an honest conversation with your supervisor. You may just need reassurance and to bring some issues to your employer’s attention for changes in the environment and a lower risk of experiencing heart problems from stress.

Muscle Aches

A toxic work environment causes stress, which may cause muscle aches. When you’re under stress, your muscles tense up, including your back, shoulders, and jaw. Consistent activation and tension can cause aches in these muscles, even after you’re home and they’ve relaxed. 

If you’re dealing with achy muscles in your neck or back related to work stress, take some time to focus on relaxation. Continue engaging in physical activity and stretching, especially throughout the workday, and eat a healthy diet.

High Blood Pressure

When you’re in a stressful situation, your body produces extra hormones that increase your blood pressure temporarily. The symptoms you may feel with high blood pressure include a rapid heartbeat and narrowed blood vessels. 

Frequent bouts of high blood pressure from stressful situations at work may lead to additional physical effects, such as damage to your blood vessels or heart. If you’re a smoker, unhealthy eater, or frequent alcohol drinker, your risk for experiencing these side effects increases.

Your employer should advocate for employee mental health and understand the importance of a healthy work environment. If you’re feeling constantly stressed at work, speak with your employer about what’s causing this stress and how to create solutions together. Consider meeting with a counselor who will help you develop healthy strategies for dealing with work-related stress before it affects your physical health.

A Change in Appetite

You may experience a decreased appetite as you deal with stress. Over time, this may result in nutritional deficiencies or decreased energy levels, which may also affect your productivity. Alternatively, your body may deal with stress by increasing your appetite, causing you to eat more and make unhealthy food choices. If you continue to let stress rule your appetite, you may experience weight gain or fatigue associated with eating unhealthy foods.

If you’re dealing with a change in appetite related to stress, attempt to eliminate this stress and use healthy coping mechanisms to deal with it. Attempt to eat a nutritious diet, adapt a consistent eating pattern, and develop healthy sleeping habits, even while dealing with work-related stress. 

A General Sick Feeling

Stress affects everyone differently. It may manifest itself in your body as a general feeling of unwellness or discomfort. When you’re dealing with a toxic work environment daily, your immune system is easily compromised by the constant stress. 

Expressing yourself and your frustrations with your current situation may help you release some of this stress. Taking deep breaths during stressful situations, getting enough sleep, and maintaining strong social relationships may also help you to combat stress and the sick feeling that might come with it.

While mental effects may be apparent in an unhealthy work environment, you may also begin to experience physical effects that can compromise your health. Learning how to identify these signs and address the symptoms of work-related stress is crucial to your wellbeing. 

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