For decades, mothers across the United States have gotten their kicks by storming into their teenagers’ bedrooms early in the morning and launching into a vicious tirade about how they need to get their lazy asses out of bed and find a job.
As some of you poor bastards are fully aware, there aren’t many things in the early part of life as stressful and frightening as lunatic matriarchs on the verge of menopause trying to motivate their sleepy, potentially hungover children to become productive members of civil society through an impressive string of foul obscenities and soul-bruising insults.
It’s not unusual to hear them screaming things like “A little hard work never killed anybody” and “I’ll be damned if you turn out like your father” followed by threats to toss all of your shit on the lawn if gainful employment is not procured by the end of the day.
The Reader’s Digest generation used to call this “tough love,” but if the science on the subject of work and death is anywhere close to accurate, it might be considered child abuse, as it turns out work puts some of us in an early grave.
The Great American Workforce acts as though all there is to our seemingly meaningless time on this planet is putting in hours at the office and collecting a measly check at the end of the pay period.
So, we work, we work some more, and we work a lot.
While a 40-hour work week is considered full-time employment in the United States, most of us are actually putting in an average of 47 hours each week according to a recent article from Popular Science.
This is considerably more than the working class stiffs in other countries, like Germany and Sweden, where employees average around 35 hours. Must be nice, slackers!
To make matters worse, Americans apparently do not believe in taking time off, as an estimated 52 percent do not use all of their vacation days throughout the year.
Unfortunately, this behavior is killing us.
Stanford University organizational behavior professor Jeffrey Pfeffer wrote in his book Dying for a Paycheck that around 150,000 people in the United States drop dead each year from being overworked. These deaths can be attributed to sedentary lifestyles, lack of sleep, and stress, he says.
The situation is much different than it was back in the day when the well-being of the workforce was jeopardized by sometimes violent occupational hazards.
Coal miners were at risk of having tons of earth cave in on them at any given second and factory workers were lopping off fingers, arms, and other appendages in addition to being poisoned by toxic chemicals. For these reasons and more, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was eventually created.
Now, many of us have raised a proverbial middle finger to this type of dangerous work and moved on to careers that are less threatening to our physical selves but you can be sure these professions come with their own perilous pitfalls.
Computer screens are eating away at our brains (or at least straining our vision and causing eye disease) and don’t even get me started on all of that sitting around we do in the office; it might be safer than using high-powered explosives thousands of feet beneath the Earth’s surface but it’s still killing us at an alarming rate.
In fact, researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center found that “sitting in an office for long periods [11.5 to 13 hours per day] has a similar effect to smoking and ought to come with a health warning.”
The Japanese even have a word for sudden death due to overwork: “Karōshi.”
This is when relatively young, healthy people really start burning up at the office, putting in crazy hours only to end up croaked out and on a slab. There have been cases where people have passed away after working 72 hours straight and one report claims a woman died prematurely after logging nearly 40 hours of overtime a week for a month.
Putting in that much time at the office and not getting any sleep is scientifically proven to cause a wealth of health problems from high anxiety to physical pain. In fact, the stress that one often experiences when trying to beat a deadline has been shown to damage vital organs – especially the heart.
A study published in 2016 found that “those in high-stress jobs with little control over their workflow die younger or are less healthy than those who have more flexibility and discretion in their jobs.”
Although this might not be an argument for becoming a worthless slug of human existence, it is indeed a good enough reason to find a balance between work, personal health, and social life.
Unless a person is consuming copious amounts of cocaine or other stimulants (all of which come with their fair share of detrimental effects) there is no way they can be at the top of their game without a proper diet, exercise, and sleep.
Experts say it is essential to establish a badass daily regimen: hitting the sack at a reasonable hour, eating regularly (but not too much), getting out of the office by working your fitness routine into your day, and catching a short nap in the early afternoon when productivity lulls.
“Some of the greatest creative minds, most notably Thomas Edison, were or are huge fans of naps, believing that naps not only allow them to be more productive, but that they also helped them to be more creative,” said Michael Kerr, author of You Can’t Be Serious! Putting Humor to Work.
It is also important to know when it’s time to shut it down for the night. Treating yourself to some fun and downtime in the evening can provide a new perspective when it comes time to get back to business the following day.
After all, there is plenty of inspiration to be found in beer and the company of others.