Monday, 13 March 2017

Is Working to Exhaustion Fashionable?

by Layla Link

Stress. We’ve all felt it. We’ve all had far too much caffeine and far too little sleep to prepare for a test or performance or show. And we’ve all had the last minute freak out before it too.

But, how far is too far? How far do we push ourselves before we realise our bodies or minds simply can’t take it anymore? 

The human body is capable of almost anything we put our mind to. You can live for 264 hours without sleep. You can live without food for three weeks. And water for a week. And if you really feel like it, you can pull a really really heavy plane with just your human body (world record is pulling a plane weighing 188.83 tonnes a distance of 8.8 m). 

So, if we are able to do all those things, why don’t we push ourselves to be the best we can be? Why not break the boundaries? And in some ways, I think we should. We wouldn’t get anywhere at all without trying as hard as we can. As my Nan used to say; “you’ve never failed until you’ve stopped trying.’

However, I recently saw a new advert from Fiverr – an online service that that connects “lean entrepreneurs” with freelance workers for as little as $5 per job–pretty good on the surface. The advert, which has been on display in the US, depicts a pale woman with tangled hair, hollow cheekbones and dark circles around her eyes. Drinking too much caffeine can lead to negative side effects such as migraines, upset stomachs and nervousness, and skipping meals has been associated with lower energy and increased heart attack risks. Not getting enough sleep, meanwhile, can make you prone to all kinds of problems–from a short temper to heart disease to obesity. And, “Lean entrepreneur?” The term could almost suggest that the company was trying to appeal to business owners who want to get away with paying their employees as little as possible.

But, so what? You might be caffeinated to the gills, hungry and exhausted, but at least you’re working really, really hard, right? Now, don’t get me wrong. I am all for working hard. But self-care is super important. And this advert is sending the wrong message. The advert draws strong links to karōshi–a Japanese term referring to the phenomenon of overwork-related death.

Depressing, isn’t it?

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