Thursday, 3 January 2008

NOT about resolutions!

But... being back in the office, I am reflecting a lot. After speaking to many people who, in comfortable middle-class jobs, are feeling a sense of unwellness, I have the sense that something is very amiss.

It started (well, I say started, but in truth, the idea merely began to coalesce from disparate feelings that have been floating around for some time, indeed, I may have mentioned it once here before) when I bumped into an ex-colleague whilst Christmas shopping.
A former, diligent, dare I say, excellent employee, she had been reduced to a state of psychological inoperability by the ever increasing workload placed upon her. An unfeeling machine, such as many corporations are, had exerted such pressure to produce and perform constantly in the red of the rev counter, that ultimately, she was unable to sustain it and broke down. I have seen this too many times now for it to be down to component failure. Her conscience and work ethic had been so manipulated and abused that she had pushed herself to the brink of mental illness trying to meet what became ultimately, impossible demands.

Something is going on here.

So, my old dad dug holes in the road for the council, drove lorries that made him deaf, to Smithfield at unearthly hours where he unloaded beef all night before driving back next day. It was hard work. I remember what it did to him.

But it was different and I am not quite sure why. (Perhaps someone could chip in on this particular gap in my understanding.)
When you talk to people, they are always busy. "How are you doing?" "Oh.. you know, a bit tired. Work is just soooo busy!"
"Hey! Lets go surfing!" "Oh, I can't sorry! I would love to but I am too busy at work"

And people get home after their long day and seem to sink into a chair, flick on the telly and have a glass of wine until, suddenly , Its bedtime.
And in all of this, where is the leisure that such toil should rigtfully bring? Where is the reward and the recreation that should make it all worth it?

Ok, so everyone mainly stays warm and dry and doesn't have to break their backs for some slavemaster to earn a crust. Largely, we have few physical demands and know where our next meal is coming from.
So what's going on? why is everyone busy, exhausted, as targets rise every year and workforces decrease whilst workloads increase?

It is as if, taking the Maslov's triangle model of needs, that all the important ones are met. Food, shelter, all those knds of things are mostly secured. Lower down though, something is lacking. Perhaps it lies with the self-actualisation, or even the security bit. I am not sure. But it is something we ignore at our peril.

Within all this frenetic striving must be a small but vital component that is not being acknowledged, something like, as an analogue, a vitamin, the absence of which may even go as far as to cause death, after a disfiguring and debilitating illness. And the worrying thing is, unlike with a lack of food, no hunger is manifest to alert you to the deficiency, save a small nagging feeling of something being "not quite right". Some need is definitely not being met and it is damaging a lot of people.

How then, do we innoculate against this? Well, ironically, I have to do some work now, so I will have to write about that another time. But, I am thinking very hard about it, I can assure you.

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