A few days ago, a friend of mine told me that the increasing amount of work she received was “killing her.” Now, this was a statement not meant to be taken seriously as it was just two friends joking around. But, for some reason, I couldn’t let the statement go. It got me thinking of all the times I pushed myself beyond my healthy limits by pulling all-nighters to finish assignments, cramming information into my brain for a test till I literally couldn’t think about anything else except that test, and stressing myself out way too much just to finish some futile project. Which lead me to the question, why are we so obsessed with “being productive” or overworking ourselves?
We all know how incredibly fast-paced this world is now. People are always in such a rush to finish their work. Sometimes they don’t even take breaks or relax, as they’re afraid of lagging. As the years have progressed, more and more workaholics have emerged. The term workaholic was coined in 1971 by a minister and psychologist Wayne Oates. It is used to describe someone who feels the need to work incessantly without any rest. For some people, work is an addiction. They just can’t bring themselves to stop.
The typical “started from the bottom, now we’re here” genre of stories is one which has been told for ages. The idea that if you work hard enough, one day you’ll be successful and rich, has been drilled into our minds since we were kids. We have glamorised the idea of productivity and workaholism so much that we brag about our unhealthy work habits to people. Equating overworking ourselves to the point of an actual mental breakdown to success is extremely toxic and something which definitely shouldn’t be done.
Toxic productivity and “hustle culture” is famous all around the world. For example, in Japan, nearly one-quarter of the companies require their workers to work more than 80 hours of overtime a month, according to a 2016 survey. These hours are unpaid and under-appreciated. Japanese workers on average didn’t use 10 of their paid vacation days, and 63 per cent of Japanese respondents felt guilty for taking paid leave. Even in India, students working themselves to the point of death is sadly common.
Depression and anxiety levels are at an all-time high. If this workaholic culture continues to stay in place, then the consequences will be harmful. Serious reform needs to be taken. One way to do this is to model our systems to that of Nordic countries, like Sweden, Finland etc. These countries have the best qualities of life, with Finland being ranked as the happiest country in the world by the United Nations. Their people get adequate working hours with good pay, healthcare, and a better quality of education. Their leaders are young and care about the quality of life of their people. Many lessons can be learned from them.
While waiting for big changes to be implemented, there is a lot we can do on our end to try to reduce stress. Taking regular breaks from work is crucial. Prioritising your mental and physical health and realising when to take breaks is another thing which needs to be practised. Remember, you cannot achieve everything in life, so there is no point in stressing over things beyond your control. Learn to let go; things will surely get better.