The culture of overworking oneself to burnout and beyond is booming.
Overwork is often defined as working past one's aptitude and it often leads to physical, mental or both types of distress.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), burnout or occupational burnout to be precise is a legitimate medical condition that stems from chronic workplace stress.
Burnouts may lead to cardiovascular disorder, coronary heart disease, hypercholesterolemia, type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal anomalies, musculoskeletal pain, difficulties in respiration, persistent fatigue, headaches and severe injuries.
Due to burnout, one is overwhelmed by a thump of misery and paranoia. Demotivation, stress, anxiety, depression and a cynical outlook on life are common by-products of overworking and they adversely affect the mental health of the person. Consequntly, burnouts may also result in suicides or mortality below the age of 45 years.
To cope with burnout, many understandably go down the road of addiction, pursue a sedentary lifestyle or become more anti-social. At its worst, burnouts may also trigger crimes.
But why do people overwork then?
For starters, sleep deprivation, fatigue, being a workaholic or plain sickness from work are taken as indicators of productivity. Not having time for friends and family or performing basic tasks like eating, sleeping, or showering, are celebrated as accomplishments.
Trendy ideas such as 'struggle', 'hustle', 'grind etc. have taken up social media which promote being a workaholic and sacrificing well-being and nourishment.
Such notions are so overpowering that overworking has become the key to success, while actual 'success' remains unattained and often irrelevant.
Organisations take pride in announcing that the staff are rooted in their cubicles or they have no time to take their eyes off the screen.
Employees are abused and taken advantage of. They have to bend over backwards to make their ends meet. This is because they have little to no room for sustenance if they leave their toxic workstations.
Rose-tinted glasses of ruthless capitalism paints self-harm, nudging one to deterioration and death in the name of productivity and development and other buzzwords.
In reality, only a handful of people in the top tier are benefitted while countless others in lower brackets are tossed into unending hardship.
Employers normalise and even fetishise sweating, bleeding and dedicating every fibre of one's being for their workplace. Quasi motivational speakers, corporate groomers and other campaigners further push the agenda with their so-called 'rags-to-riches' stories.
Burnouts are displayed as coveted trophies; only to be left unnoticed or to be rewarded with peanuts. Employers and all of us are so accustomed to overworking and burnout that anyone seeking a work-life balance or rational and healthy work arrangements is seen as an outcast and often plucked out.
As per Dr Leslie Kern, an associate professor at Mount Allison University, Canada and acclaimed life and career coach, each cohort of over-workers raises the bar.
So, the next batch has to work more tediously to satisfy the ones they have to report to. This makes getting out of the endless loop which she compared with a hamster wheel is impossible.
Again, Sam Keen, American author, professor, and philosopher compares a person who has burnt out like a zombie, walking dead, a sleepwalker and someone whose soul left in his book, "Fire in the Belly: On Being a Man".
Burnout is generally left unpronounced. The rare moments when it does find its way in contemplation, it is categorised as a phenomenon exclusive to Silicon Valley, Wall Street or other foreign sites.
When Bangladesh is brought into perspective, it remains limited to minimum wage earners of factories and industries including the RMG sector.
A romantic depiction of such places encourages seeking burnout. Burnout has plagued all fields of occupation in Bangladesh be it corporate, defence, academic, engineering, service, technology, arts, communication or of any other nature.
It is speculated to be more prominent in the private sector than the public. Only a fraction of it surfed due to the advent of Covid-19, which rebooted the mode of working. For example, medical practitioners are still uncredited. Even after working with devotion, many had to lose their jobs.
The hybrid style of performing duties compels employees to work at both home and office. The maximum of eight hours shifts is stretched to twelve or more hours. Needless to say, the time spent commuting or prepping is not accounted for.
Staff are compelled to work on weekends and do overtime with no extra pay. Impossible targets are to be met every minute.
The work pile is continuously heaped with meetings, presentations, reports, analyses, assessments and trips. Lunch breaks or any time is taken to refresh oneself is frowned upon.
The work does not end after setting foot away from the office premise. The employees are pestered with emails, messages and calls at ungodly hours to be assigned more work.
Employees cannot stay off-guard during emergencies like sickness or accidents and personal milestones such as weddings or parenthood.
They have little room for engaging in activities of their own choice for personal or professional growth. Even running errands like grocery shopping, going to the bank; and household chores are discounted.
In connection to this, the Portuguese parliament has taken a commendable step by making it illegal for bosses to contact their employees outside working hours.
In addition to this, employers will also be liable to pay for increased gas and electricity bills due to working from home.
Furthermore, they will have to pay for increased gas and electricity bills due to working from home. Bangladesh too needs to act upon such a step along with transparency and accountability of the employers.
Work should only be limited to predetermined shifts with ample room for rejuvenation. Occupations are merely a part of life, not life itself.
So, every citizen of Bangladesh should have the right to lead a healthy life without compromising self, family, friends or social affairs.
Additional staff may be hired by organisations to work on alternate shifts. When such concepts are put forward before companies, they showcase budgetary restrictions. In such cases, the budgetary challenges should be taken care of beforehand.
In the long run, Bangladesh's problem of unemployment could be tackled to a certain degree with such steps. A skilled populace would be generated.
Since ethical codes, moral values and the fact that it is straight out wrong to force someone to burn out are not convincing enough, it is to preach again and again that the best results are not produced from overwork but balanced work.
Countries like Denmark, Bahrain, Norway, The Czech Republic and New Zealand are at the top of the list of amazing work-life balance. Such countries are not only excelling in every field while being an abode to happy individuals.
Raiyan Rahman has a Masters degree in Development Studies (MDS) from the Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.