We are working harder than ever and it’s killing us. We need more chill time
Long hours make us ill and ineffective. With greater space and flexibility, people could be more creative

Working hours have been falling for the past two centuries…..

43 thoughts on “Sigh”

  1. Well, I’ve declared today to be unofficial weekend. Much to the disgust of the youngest who still has to go to school.

    Admittedly, I’d only be pottering around the office anyway – the newest customer has had an unexpected delay in their completely unrealistic schedule.

  2. I appreciate this is one of your favourite themes, Tim, but it isn’t true for everyone. When I started in IT I really did work 9-5. When I finished I was routinely working evenings and weekends.

  3. RlJ>

    Not sure that doesn’t say more about your success in the field. When I started doing IT, I was working hard for very little. By the time I retired from the field to go do something interesting, I was working about 20ish hours a week for five-to-ten times the money I started on. And I spent less than a decade buggering about with computers for money.

    Still, of course Tim’s nitpicking. The original author didn’t really mean ‘ever’. They meant ‘a few years ago’.

  4. You can pretty much guarantee that any CiF article declaring a ‘crisis’ is either ignoring the fact that it can be tackled by people being responsible (campylobacter in chicken) or is trying to guilt- trip us into thinking we are the worst culprits rather than some third world hellhole (slavery)..

  5. If there’s one thing I hate about the Graun it’s its overuse of the words ‘we’ and ‘our’. Presumptuous bastards.

  6. We are working harder, even if not longer. IT enables managers to monitor their workers more than ever before, and to squeeze more productivity out of them. This started in blue-collar jobs, but it’s now seen in office jobs too. How many minutes do you spend on the phone with each customer? How many tax returns can you process per hour? How many words can you write? How many clicks on the website does your article generate? How many bugs did you fix in the code? Each month we fire the lowest 5% of workers, so work harder!

    This increased productivity is good for the overall economy, but constant monitoring is undeniably a source or stress for workers. Journalists are only just discovering this phenomenon for themselves.

  7. Andrew>

    “constant monitoring is undeniably a source or stress for workers”

    For those who are no good at their jobs, yes, Those of us with high productivity welcome any development which makes our skills more apparent.

  8. Andrew:

    “Each month we fire the lowest 5% of workers, so work harder!”

    They deliberately turn over 60% of their staff every year? I’m sceptical. Do you know how expensive it is to find and hire people with any sort of skills? Could you cite an example?

  9. Her example of someone in the gym by 5.30am and in work by 7 is hardly typical of the general workforce, not would any same employer insist on this from their staff.

  10. Rob – In a commission-based sales job that would be not uncommon. More often it’s expressed in terms in failing to meet a sales target, rather than worst 5%, but the net effect is the same over time.

  11. Bloke in Germany in Hong Kong

    Difficult one. In many ways things are less stressful because fewer hours, because your children won’t starve if the mill owner kicks you out, and so on. But I do suspect what we do, and how we do it, imposes much higher psychological (if usually lower physical) stress than what we would have been doing 100, 200 or more years ago.

  12. Interested:

    A word of solace: if there’s one thing we don’t have to do, it’s restrict ourselves to one thing we don’t like about The Guardian.

  13. It’s very droll to have a post about evolution followed by a post about that great counter-example to evolution, to wit: Guardian writers.

  14. Stress is a very real condition with real physical and psychological effects, though. We should remember that before dismissing the quote just because it is in the Graun.

  15. bloke (not) in spain

    I’m sure there must be natural law that says the current instant is always perceived unfavourably with the past. Like the summers of our youth. I’ve always believed the capability to worry is a constant & people will find something to worry about irrespective of actual concerns. Maybe “stress” whatever that word’s supposed to mean, is the same. Stress? I don’t suppose there’s more than a couple people likely to read this have ever suffered any real stress in their entire lives. You are featherbedded from cradle to grave. You are unlikely ever to lack food, shelter or be in fear of your safety. You’re protected from the consequences of your actions. You’re almost impossible to fire however much you fail in your employment & if you are, the benevolent State will step in & aid you.
    As for working hard. Again, I don’t suppose more than a fraction have the slightest idea what hard work is. You’re mostly pencil pushers.
    FFS. Get a life.

  16. B(N)IS

    I have. In physiological terms, it’s a situation where the fight or flight response is permanently activated, when that is designed (teleological evolutionary discourse aside) for short term use, not long term, and it stays active because you are in a situation where you can never fight nor fly. And it really is absolute debilitating and I would go so far as to say mind altering. And thoroughly unpleasant.

  17. bloke (not) in spain

    Ian
    Fight what? Flee from what? Doctor Who’s monsters?
    Maybe it’s just people taking themselves too seriously.

    Although.
    I do wonder about the continual diet of action/adventure TV. Watchers do get very involved. The F&F response kicks in.
    Even front line combat troops aren’t exposed to so many killings over such a lengthy period.

    I know I feel much for not watching much TV. Living under a perpetual cloud of imposed pseudo crises.

  18. Sigh. I can only conclude that you’re being deliberately obtuse. Civilisation often places people in situations in which our brain stem instincts (kill it, run away from it) are no longer applicable. The person thus remains in a long term state of a problem which induces emotional responses- in practical terms, flooding them with hormones- which cannot be resolved. This is hardly a daring observation, BNIS.

  19. bloke (not) in spain

    Psychology.
    Witch doctory.
    Sounds like a load of bollocks to me.
    But if you believe it, I can well imagine the damage it would cause.
    Like I said, people take themselves too seriously.

    The brain damaged bint wrote the article:
    ” This week, on the way back from a work event (at around 10pm) …”
    My heart bleeds. Your a f*****g journalist luv. You get paid for standing around with a drink in your hand. Some of us have to buy their own drinks. Sympathy you will not get.

  20. It’s not actually psychology, it’s physiology. If I fling you out of a plane (especially, without a parachute), I can guarantee that your heart rate will increase. Can you guess how that happens?

  21. I’m with bnis here. To (no doubt mis-) quote the great Keith Miller (cricketer and RAAF Mosquito pilot) on the subject of “pressure” in sport: “pressure is [having] a Messerschmitt up your arse.”

    Applies even more so to pencil-pushing, I imagine.

  22. Maybe that is pressure, but it actually illustrates the point. Having a Messerschmitt up your arse is a fight or flight (literally, haha!) situation which resolves, one way or the other, rather quickly. The pilot’s physiological responses are short term and totally appropriate to the situation.

    Stress is when the Messerschmitt is there all day every day and there is no resolution to it.

  23. bloke (not) in spain

    Well yes, Ian. I can imagine how being flung out of a plane, without a parachute, would do that. But if missing your sales targets has the same effect somewhere you’ve got a reality dysfunction.

    On planet earth people seem so devoid of actual stress in their lives they spend a great deal of money & trouble seeking it. Hence skiing holidays & the macho achievement of the Black Run. John77 & his marathon fetish. There was a time, most people went to enormous trouble to avoid these sort of things.

  24. Not if missing your sales target means losing your job and being thrown into economic ruin. For example.

    I think you’re being a bit silly on this, BNIS.

  25. bloke (not) in spain

    “Not if missing your sales target means losing your job and being thrown into economic ruin.”
    With what consequences? So you might have to curtail those Seychelles holiday plans for a year or two.
    The adjective “ruin” applied to economic is a hyperbola. I’ve seen ruins.

  26. bloke (not) in spain

    No, Ian, I’m being realistic. Not meeting one’s aspirations may be disappointing but it’s not a disaster. Earthquakes are disasters (unless you’re in the building business).

    For years my personal business plan required me to invest a substantial proportion of my assets – sometimes more than 100%- in various projects. Always with the possibility of losing the lot. Or more than the lot.
    Stressful?
    Why?
    It’s a game.
    Don’t fancy the cards, don’t play.

  27. @ bnis

    “Not meeting one’s aspirations may be disappointing but it’s not a disaster.”

    Correct, usually. As in, things usually work out OK (if not ideal). But I think that the stress that Ian is talking about is that which comes before any not-so-bad-after-all actuality unwinds itself.

    Yeah, losing your job might not be a big deal in the end. But you don’t know that until it’s happened. Some people see bad situations resolving themselves with not great harm done, other’s aren’t able to. So they get stressed. Maybe they shouldn’t, but they do.

  28. bloke (not) in spain

    @TTG
    Look. If people can’t handle this stuff become a librarian,sign on the dole, register as disabled. They’d certainly qualify for the latter if they’re so unable to cope with life’s minor caprices.

    But, of course, they’re all now required to emote. Everyone a martyr in their very own cause.

    Colour me thoughly disinterested.

  29. Well, I never thought I’d see the human condition entirely resolved in a blog comment thread. You live and learn.

    Honestly BNIS, you’re normally rather astute, but this is ridiculous.

  30. @ Ian B
    The Mosquito was a plywood plane, originally designed as an unarmed bomber but most famous as a reconnaissance plane and as the fastest plane in the war.
    If Keith Miller had had a few cricket balls with him then he might have thrown one at the Messerschmidt pilot but otherwise your analogy fails.

  31. @ b(n)is
    Actually I didn’t find marathons (when I ran in my younger days) particularly stressful and training for them was frequently relaxing after a stressful day in the office.
    It is a common human trait to dwell on the more pleasant experiences in one’s past so those come first into one’s mind when seeking analogies for things currently being debated.

  32. Apparently Keith Miller’s main problem when playing was his friendly disposition and good humour, which would have been made worse by knowing that sport is trivial.

    To solve this, the Aussie management would ensure that he had an absolute skinful the night before, especially if he was due to bowl, and so wake up hungover and bad-tempered.

  33. john77,

    A friend of mine, the late (and much lamented) Ed Rasimus, flew some 250 missions in the course of two tours deployed to Southeast Asia, in F-105s in ’67-8 and F-4s in ’72. (He wrote t-two excellent books – ‘When Thunder Rolled’ and ‘Palace Cobra’ – describing each tour)

    One point he describes is a fellow pilot curled up, weeping and almost catatonic: “the guns, it’s the guns…” Enemy fighters, and to an extent surface-to-air missiles, were duels; you could convince yourself that it was you against the enemy pilot or the SAM operator, and you were better so you would survive. Yes, it was fight-or-flight, but there was an enemy you could see and either try to kill or try to get away from.

    The gunfire, though, was box barrages, sometimes so dense that you’d lose sight of the far side of the formation because there were so many 85mm shells bursting around you, and it was pure random chance whether you lived or died; every now and then a shell would burst close enough to a Thunderchief to destroy it, and there was nothing at all the pilot could do about it.

    That, rather than rare MiGs (Ed saw two in his 250 missions, one chasing him – he got away from it fairly easily – and one in front of him – he instantly found himself ninth in the queue to shoot at it) was what ate away a man’s courage and left him terrified to get into the cockpit for another Route Pack mission. (The guy did pull it together and kept flying… and one day, the guns got him)

    Oh, and while the Mossie was quick, and versatile – also very effective nightfighter, intruder, fighter-bomber and even a submarine hunter in its ‘Tsetse’ version – it was outpaced by quite a few aircraft: jets like the Me262 outran it easily, but aircraft like the He219 Uhu could and did chase down Mosquito bomber versions.

  34. But I distinctly remember being promised in the 1960’s that by 2000 we’d work about 3 hours a week on average, and we’d all live in skytowers with a helipad on top, where we’d get a helitaxi to the shops.

  35. bloke (not) in spain

    Ian
    Brits live in the least potentially stressful period in their history. The chances of suffering physical harm or any real deprivation approach zero. If you wish to get stressed out on whether you get on the property ladder with a three bed semi, cover the repayments on a Porche or fit a squash game into your schedule, feel free to. Just don’t expect me to take you seriously.

  36. @ Jason Lynch
    I never flew a Mosquito (I wasn’t even born during WWII) so I only know what they were famous for, not whether the reputation was justified. My point was that an unarmed Mosquito could not fight a Messerschmidt.

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