Workplace Safety Might Look Very Different Soon

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We call out of work for all kinds of reasons: feeling sick, needing a mental health day, even (admit it) nursing a hangover. More often than not, even at pretty progressive workplaces, these allowances are pretty narrowly defined. That could be changing, though — and your office might become a more holistic place to work because of it.

The National Safety Council has just released a new survey about what should count as being impaired on the job. Generally, we think of that to mean substance abuse or taking medication that interferes with your work. The NSC, however, would like to expand that definition to include "physical factors like fatigue, as well as experiencing mental distress and social factors like stress."

This isn't just a pipe dream. A full 93 percent of employers surveyed in 2020 wanted to extend workplace impairment to things like wellness. The NSC has a long history of advocating for workers who rely on their bodies, such as drivers and machinists, but any desk job or nontraditional employee would benefit from a more expansive idea of worker health.

Of course, with COVID lockdowns still keeping many (though not all) of us working remotely, the mental health challenges we're dealing with overall are their own uphill climb. But at a time when reality might especially complicate demands for productivity, it could be worth working out how much we're pushing ourselves into states of impairment. In a world with more workplace accommodations, we all benefit.