24 September 2012

Workaholism is a dangerous disease

Find a workaholic in yourself (and cut out)

Evgeny Zolotov, VATIn "Boiler Room" – a good, naive film of the era of the first dot-com boom – newcomers who came for an interview in a successful company, an old-timer hammers in from the threshold: you came to work, not to rest!

The plot is made up, but the slogan is not at all. It has become the mantra of capitalism, and neither those who proclaim it, nor those who agree with it, have long felt neither pricks of conscience nor doubts. This is how it should be, this is how it should be, period!

Tired people can always console themselves with stories about the harmful consequences of working late, lack of days off and vacations, and the law throughout the civilized world has been on the side of a moderate duration, properly organized labor process for fifty years. And as a result, it's a shame to even mention leaving the workplace at a set hour at any efficient enterprise.

The generally accepted norm is eight hours a day, five days a week. According to legend, this formula goes back to the same place where many of the ideas that formed the basis of the technological revolution of the XX century came from: to the factories of Henry Ford. Ford was a well-known connoisseur of small things (a few cents or seconds of savings, noticed and replicated, resulted in tangible amounts in his production) and, among other things, allegedly tried to find the most effective labor regime by experience. So, after 40 hours a week, the total output grew much weaker than before this truly magical figure. That's where they stopped.

Today, only some countries live on a different schedule (in Thailand, for example, a 6-day week, but also 8 hours a day). And not a single attempt to radically reshape the 8x5 regime has caught on: neither the revolutionary calendar of France (ten-day week), nor the five-day period of the early Soviet period.

If you make a summary today showing the average hourly duration of the working week around the world, the picture will be more than pleasant (see below). Only a quarter of developed countries consistently recycle, the rest work less, sometimes much less than the Ford optimum (in the Netherlands, for example, it is already almost a 30-hour week). The problem is that the "average temperature in the ward" does not reflect the emissions up. And they are available.

The average length of the working week in different countries. The 40 o'clock area is shown in red.
(data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD)

For the last few days (at the suggestion of Finnish researchers who tried to explain what exactly is wrong with the idea of spending more than eight hours a day in the workplace), the Western press has been discussing the problem of too long a week. The West views it as a bad habit, from which too many still suffer.

Under this sauce, a lot of interesting stories have been extracted, telling about the actual length of the day. The general meaning: despite the blissful average, the office West tends to work "from here to sunset." The British and Germans hold the highest bar in Europe, producing noticeably more than the standard 40 hours, and in the States, in financial spheres, consulting, they say, 60 hours a week is not uncommon. A successful business requires complete dedication, and technology helps work haunt us in the evenings and on weekends.

Ford, who was choosing the optimal length of the working day, was primarily interested in productivity (he generally had very peculiar ideas about the family and the family happiness of workers: for example, the wives of workers were forbidden to work in production). But in the nearly hundred years since then, priorities have shifted. Today, activists who advocate reducing shifts focus on the consequences for the individual and society. Fortunately, medicine is on their side.

Work in the office is a chronic lack of physical activity: lunch break is short, and jumping rope during the day will not be allowed everywhere. This is a constant psychological stress, provoking, in particular, abnormal production of a number of hormones. This is a wrong diet. Add here "professional" bad habits (smoke breaks, alcohol), excessive activity hitting the nerves (everyone wants to be an "alpha"!) – and get a real cocktail of negative factors, generously poured over the edge every morning to anyone who opens the office door.

The bill for violating the precepts of Uncle Ford to workaholics is issued by seniority. Significantly higher risk of heart disease, stroke, early senile dementia compared to normal people. Plus guaranteed problems in the family. Yes, I almost forgot, excessive enthusiasm for work affects the work process itself: chronic fatigue is cast into a weak memory, hits the IQ coefficient, increases the risk of professional mistakes.

Average length of the working year (data for 2011: OECD)

The first and natural reaction to the description of the problems of workaholics is to leave them to deal with their own difficulties. The problem, however, is that (even in the developed West!) not only people who are passionate about business stay up late. Too often, a prolonged working day is a consequence of the "collective unconscious", an idea that has become ingrained in the brain, like dirt under the nails: a person who spends less time in the workplace loves his work and produces less than others!

Hence the instinctive desire that sits in us to leave later than the boss. But this ridiculous misconception applies even to those who do not have to spend their whole day in the office: there is a study that shows that employees working remotely are, on average, rated by their superiors weaker than those who flicker in front of their eyes from eight to five.

Thus, working less does not mean working worse. But statistics are ready to continue the logical chain: working a lot does not mean living well. Take a look at the second picture. This is the average number of hours actually worked per year for different countries of the world. It is not quite correct to compare absolute values with each other (the data was collected in different ways, there are other specifics), but you can compare the dynamics (for this you need to go to the original source, an interactive table on the OECD website, and move the slider). And that's when an interesting dependence pops up: over the past twelve years, the vast majority of countries with a high standard of living have demonstrated a stable downtrend in the length of the working year. And only Russia remains where it was in 2000.

The last picture makes you think that there is probably something else involved in the equation of personal well-being besides the pure time spent in the workplace. Of course, generalizations are dangerous here: after all, it is possible to lower the time bar of the same Great Britain or France allows greater efficiency of the working process, better education, but there may also be the specifics of work (with an emphasis on intellectual, at the peak of physical).

But in any case, it's a sin not to try to get rid of the habit of staying up late. Psychologists recommend starting with a question addressed to yourself: is my presence really necessary? Is it financially justified, given the futures for health and family? And then make the necessary adjustments to your personal schedule.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru24.09.2012

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