Although MS and age conspire to make my memory as reliable as an ’87 Yugo, I can still recall much of my youth. Go figure. One recollection that has come to mind recently is the way the future was portrayed to us striplings in our school days. Surely by now we should be zipping around in rocket packs and flying cars, eating food from tubes and taking spontaneous trips to Mars for the weekend.
Alas, it was not to be. The age of the Jetsons, if it ever dawns, is still a long way off. Another prospect I’m still awaiting is the promised age of leisure. In high school, our teachers assured us that robots and computers would make industry so productive that workers would be able to sit on their hands most of the time, with three day work weeks the norm. That vision also remains as distant as the Mars weekend boondoggle.
None of those failed futurists ever foresaw 21st century corporate America with its “do more with less” philosophy hammered out on the backs of stressed out drones fearing for their jobs. We never envisioned “work-life balance” being swamped by the tsunami of “work-life integration”, where the idea of personal time ceases to exist.
Not only are the three- and four-day work week nonexistent, the five- and six-day weeks are both endangered species. Vacation? The only vacation most people are likely to take is from their leisure. A recent study showed that American workers took less time off in 2013 than they had in four decades. Those restless souls left 169 million days of paid time off on the table, resulting in a boon of free labor for their employers.
Working for nothing. How is that different than slave labor? Hey, why not just give your employer your check back? That would certainly help your job prospects! (I’m not even talking about those people whose idea of a vacation includes being tethered to the office via computer and cell phone.)
I talk a lot about stress in this blog. The progression of my MS correlates directly to the amount of stress in my life. I’d be very surprised if the same were not true of a lot of people, not only with MS but any number of conditions from heart disease to stroke to mental illness.
Yet, with nary a whimper of protest, we’ve surrendered one of the few legal pressure release valves available to us: time off. What’s the reason? Fear. Fear of losing the job in this era of disposable human capital. Those fears are understandable, especially as you age and your income creeps into the non-sustainable range for business.
If you want to fear something, fear for your health. The stress can literally kill you. (Real life examples: At my last place of employment, the one that made sent my MS out of control, one man committed suicide while on the job and one had a heart attack right after his annual review during which he was unfairly trashed.) What’s to gain from giving your life away to your employer? Nothing. According to the aforementioned study, workers who sacrificed time off got fewer raises and promotions. And they lost their jobs at the same rate as everyone else.
Jesus said, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” We’re not doing violence to the spirit of His admonition when we apply the concept to our jobs. What does it profit a man if he saves his job (even though in the end he doesn’t) and loses his health? Or even his life?
It’s crazy to ask, but I must: What are we working for anyway?