Saturday, November 19, 2020

The Curse of Overwork

In "Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure," Juliet B. Schor explains why over the past 20 years working hours in the US have increased by around nine hours per year: the equivalent of one month per year taking that period as a whole. Beginning with the "young Turks" on Wall Street, the spread of "power lunches," "power exercise" and "power naps" allowed these twenty-something urban professionals to create a hectic lifestyle that brought them vast material rewards at a younger age than ever before.

The downside — stress, health problems, wrecked personal lives and burnout before age 40 — only showed itself later. Now, it seems, it's spreading to other parts of the world as they embrace similar patterns of youth-obsessed working styles. This passage is from the Deccan Herald in Bangalore, India.
"Laksmi, a postgraduate in computer science, works for an MNC. She is 28 years old and married to Ganesh, an engineer with an MBA degree from a foreign university. He too works for a big company as a solution expert. Laksmi and Ganesh work for 10 hours a day, excluding three hours that they spend on commuting. Their communication at home usually begins with simple comments like “you left the fan on”, “you did not switch off the TV” that invariably leads to a quarrel. Dinner is served with the television on and there is some more channel swapping before one of them falls asleep, perhaps with the remote resting on the lap. This routine is going on for the past three years. They hesitate to demonstrate physical intimacy and concern for each other seems to be at the thought level only. Their interest in sexual activity is at its lowest."
Later in the article, the writer (a psychologist) remarks:
"Even though non-participatory relationships seem acceptable to them, each one feels helpless and indecisive regarding simple problems. This new kind of a social malady attributed to ‘work pressure’ is seen expressed on a successful professional platform like IT."
The Work Ethic has a stranglehold on the American psyche that isn't mirrored in other parts of the world, especially in the East. So what appears to be happening is the exporting of a systematic organizational pattern of overworking, not a cultural viewpoint. Perhaps with the outsourcing of American jobs, the developed world is outsourcing some of its growing social and psychological handicaps too.

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Anonymous said...

You hit the nail on the head. I live and work in Bangalore, and you are outsourcing some of your social problems here too. Because of overwork, no one has time to look after those most vulnerable - kids and the elderly. Any society that neglect kids and the elderly is heading for disaster. And we're going there faster than you can imagine. Divorce rates are spiralling, kids have the TV for parents, and grandparents have to suffer in old-age homes. I hope the US stops this overworking madness, becuase it is only then that we will follow suit.

12:41 AM  
Luisin said...

How can people who cant manage their personal lives be trusted with the lives of others? Arent we enforcing a vicious circle?

3:51 AM  

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