Updated: Jan 30, 2021
Organizations love to be highly efficient so utilization of human resource is on rise but constant linear effort at work is turning out to be lethal
We live in a world which encourages overwork, overtime, high productivity, high human utilization everywhere. Parents love kids who studies for long hours without complaining or taking breaks and CEOs like employees working for long hours, taking less time offs and doing overtime. If anyone shows any different signs they are considered to be weak in the social ladder.
Mother nature has created everything including humans following a cyclical pattern. That’s the unscripted law of nature. You will see sun rise and then set, you will see moon rise and set, you will see high tides and low tides, you will see day and night, you will see summer and winter, spring and autumn, you have seasonal fruits and vegetables, you have seasonal flowers. In humans we see the same trend and our organs are rhythmic. Our heart, lungs, cells, muscle contracts and then expands, we have high blood pressure sometimes followed by low blood pressure, our pulse goes up and down, our brain waves up and down, we have sleep cycles as well in which we travel from light to deep sleep & reverse in an interval of 90 to 120 minutes . Imagine if you see a flat line in ECG what would that mean ?
Japan is considered to be the champion of efficiency. Japan records the highest number of work hours per week per person in all G7 countries list but ranks the lowest in productivity. That is not all , the phenomenon of KAROSHI which means “death from overwork” is real in Japan. The first incident of Karoshi was registered in 1969 and now in Japan more than 10,000 death a year is attributed to KAROSHI. Stanford University Organizational Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer argues that some 150,000 deaths in USA and 1 million death in China can also be attributed to overwork. So the crisis is a global one. You will also be surprised that although stories of accidents, murders and terror killings makes the headlines however leading causes of deaths around the globe are none of them, rather more people are dying due to preventable diseases related heart, lungs, kidney, diabetes, cancer etc. As per WHO report the 7 leading causes of death globally are mostly preventable ones. At a global level, 7 of the 10 leading causes of deaths in 2019 were noncommunicable diseases. These seven causes accounted for 44% of all deaths or 80% of the top 10. However, all noncommunicable diseases together accounted for 74% of deaths globally in 2019.
This is the cost we have to pay when we break the laws of nature. Not all deaths might be related to work stress but even if we take a fraction out of it we are still looking at more deaths than murders and killings and we do know we are talking about more than fraction here.
Organizations and societies in general must understand and value the principles of rest & recovery and discourage overwork and overtime as an accepted norm. CEOs are not only accountable to their shareholder's profit but they are more accountable to their employee's lives. Look at Japan, the place from where the madness of efficiency started, situation is so worse that government now have to intervene to reform overtime hours in labor law. Government have to make laws for working parents like child allowance policy, parental leave policy and many more to improve the fertility rate which has gone down due to demanding un-flexible work culture.
The obsession of efficiency has now spread from Japan to all developed countries and no wonder you will find the same crisis there sooner or later. While Machines can be efficient in a linear way, so you can do a annual power shutdown activity and you are good to go for rest of the year but humans are efficient in non-linear way, they cannot go on a vacation for 30 days and work naturally for 335 days straight, they cannot work for 8 hours straight and take 8 hours rest. You can go against your biology by having enough cortisol and adrenaline ( stress hormones) in your system every day which can override your rhythmicity. The cost of this long term over-ride of course is increase of preventable diseases and premature deaths. Your rest between work is not non-productive time, infact as per studies done these are highly productive times. Efficiency does not guarantee productivity for humans, we misunderstood the definition of efficiency when it comes to human. Working long hours for something that you absolutely love to do and working long hours for something that you have to do for living does not have the same impact on your health. We will discuss more in our next Chapter, till that time take care, take frequent short breaks between work and stop overworking.