And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Friday, June 14, 2024

Byung-Chul Han - Burning Out

excerpt from above video:
Aren’t we living in the best age ever!? I mean, look at the world around us! Modern society grants us endless possibilities. Contrary to our grandparents (and their parents), who were told to just pray to God, have kids, work in the factory, and shut up, we, the children of modernity and neoliberalism, can become anything we want! We can become CEOs of our own startups, hustlers, innovators, YouTube stars, Instagram models, you name it! You only have to work hard and live on rice and beans for five years, and you’ll get there! And, yes, of course, this applies to everyone! So, get off your lazy ass, start grinding, listen to Gary Vee, and you’ll be among the rich and successful in no time. Because hey, you don’t want to be a loser, do you? No, of course not! So, what are you waiting for? Get your Grindset on, and start crushing it!

Beneath this shiny surface of boundless opportunity, there’s, unfortunately, a darker side. South Korean-born German philosopher Byung-Chul Han is concerned that our capitalist society is increasingly leading humanity toward collective burnout and many other problems, such as narcissism and hyperattention. His book The Burnout Society explains the effects of today’s achievement society and why people are more exhausted and disconnected than ever before
Aoibhinn McBride, "Could the future of your job involve a 6-day week?"
Are you part of the ‘achievement society’?

Coined by Korean German philosopher Byung-Chul Han in his book The Burnout Society, which explores contemporary capitalist culture, being part of an achievement society manifests itself as an internal pressure to achieve, do more and be more by working more.

The ‘work hard, play hard’ mindset has been a part of the American psyche for eons. From anecdotal evidence of chasing the American Dream to the very real fact that paid time off is not legislated for and is at the complete discretion of your employer, U.S. workers spend more time at work than their European counterparts.

A 2023 report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) found that 13.3 percent of Americans work in excess of 48 hours per week, compared to 7.9 percent of Europeans.

However, the report also highlights that the Covid-19-induced lockdowns and the resultant shift to remote work as standard helped to bolster work-life balance as we moved away from long working hours, not to mention grueling commutes.

All work and no play?

But where do we stand now, four years on from this seismic shift?

From compulsory RTO (return to office) mandates to mass layoffs, and fears of economic recession (notably the tech sector has witnessed 525,000 layoffs since the beginning of 2022), the pendulum of power seems to be swinging back in favor of the employer. Workers are once again putting in longer hours to keep apace.

At one extreme you have the so-called “996” culture, where workers are expected to work 9am to 9pm, six days a week.

Derived from Chinese tech culture, CEOs including Jack Ma, the founder of e-commerce site Alibaba (BABA) and Tesla founder Elon Musk have endorsed long working days, with the latter infamously declaring on X that “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week”.

For Musk, the magic number to change the world is 80 hours per week as, “pain level increases exponentially above 80”, but what are the physical and mental implications of working to this extreme?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Musk’s 80-hour theory could be fatal—long working hours led to 745 000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29 percent increase since 2000.

Of these deaths, 72 percent were male, and most deaths were recorded among people aged 60 to 79 who had worked 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 years.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way many people work,“ said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, of the findings.

“Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work. In addition, many businesses have been forced to scale back or shut down operations to save money, and people who are still on the payroll end up working longer hours. No job is worth the risk of stroke or heart disease. Governments, employers and workers need to work together to agree on limits to protect the health of workers.”

“Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard,” added Dr Maria Neira, director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, at the World Health Organization. “It’s time that we all, governments, employers, and employees wake up to the fact that long working hours can lead to premature death”.

Looking to the future

While Gen Z’s adoption of “quiet quitting” and “lazy girl jobs”—AKA doing their job within working hours but never working overtime or at the weekends—may have initially been dismissed by older generations (particularly Millennials who enshrined the concept of a side hustle in modern workplace lexicon), it looks like they’re on to something.

Because beyond the worrying health implications, an additional study has found that working excessively long hours (over 50 hours per week) is bad for productivity––and the bottom line.

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