During the past few years, it seems that work is becoming increasingly similar to a very possessive lover that will not tolerate any other rivals or interference. Indeed, with all the modern communication gadgets such as I-Phones, Blackberries, and laptops that could be utilised in free WiFi zones, it appears that it is becoming very hard for several individuals to be able to draw a line between work and the rest of their life activities. How many times has a family event been interrupted by a work-related SMS or phone call on one's mobile? For more and more people, leaving the office is no longer tantamount to finishing a day's work and to concentrating on other things. You did not manage to answer the 150 unread emails in your inbox? Don't worry! Just go home, log onto the Internet, and continue working from your bedroom! Friends and family can wait another day! Your health? Only weaklings complain about such things!
With the spectre of unemployment and the threat of competition that pervades capitalist societies, many people feel obliged to prove that they are indispensable to the company. Consequently, they tend to bite much more than they can chew. By having one's finger in so many things, the idea appears to be that of giving the impression that should they leave the company, the company's work will grind to a catastrophic halt.
The desire to feel indispensable has also fuelled a phenomenon called presenteeism. Put simply, many individuals remain in the office beyond business hours with the hope that even if they are not on top on things, they are still doing their utmost to achieve the company's objectives. Some also make it a point to show that most of the week-end was spent on work-related projects.
Over a period of time, the people who succumb to the temptation of making work the centre of their lives often realise that even though work might satisfy many of their psychological needs, such satisfaction comes at a heavy price. Spouses and friends often end up neglected, invitations to social events are turned down, and finding time to pursue other educational activities such as learning a new language are postponed to "sometime in the future". Furthermore, when people end up dedicating 12, 14, or 16 hours a day to work, there is little doubt that such strain is going to have a negative impact on one's health. I wonder how many families have broken down because of work-related pressures. How many friendships have wilted as a result of neglect. How many children have grown up with nannies since one or both parents are always at work. How many individuals have lost their lives or developed chronic illnesses as a result of work-related stress.
The question I keep asking myself is: why should one devote so much effort to increasing the wealth of some shareholders at the expense of one's own health, family, friends, personal and social development? Don't people realise that no matter how glorious one's current position might appear to be, a day will come when one will have to retire? And then what? Are the shareholders going to come to visit you in hospital and to hold your hand when you are so sick that you can barely ingest any food? Are the shareholders going to look after your loved ones?
I think that most societies should take a fresh look at the whole notion of work. Why do people work? What objectives should work allow us to achieve - as individuals and as a society? Shouldn't workers be treated with care from the cradle to the grave? Shouldn't work be more about building a better society characterised by healthy individuals rather than swelling the pockets of a relatively small number of people? The investigation continues...