Exhausted? What we need is a new holiday | Life and style
I was trying to describe to my daughter what it feels like when your eyes contract. Like a tiny little harpist pulls his eyelashes out. How did he get so small? Maybe an evil curse. She was getting visibly horrified. “OK, not that then. Like your face is a lake and in a corner. , a duckling paddles really fast but not going anywhere, maybe stuck in the weeds or in the six-pack plastic ring left by an irresponsible picnicer. No, no, okay, drop that – imagine your brain trying to get your attention by rhythmically spitting inside your eyeball. It is angry and forgotten and is finally trying to escape its hard white shell. She was swinging now, her hands on her ears, the low whine of a child praying for a snack and an outing, and as I looked at my computer, where Zoom asked me to give an opinion on the quality of my most recent meeting, a word resurfaced of my sinking. brain: burnout.
Burnout. The image of a candle drowned in its own wax; the smell of burnt hair. A banker, stumbling through the city at dawn, his eyes blank and round like coins. A doctor at the end of a shift, the lines of their face masks now dark like stage makeup. And then, us, all of us who have worked our way through the litter of the past year, desperately trying to find something of value. Anyone who has tried to keep their job while trying to take care of their family and stay in good physical health so as not to make them mentally unhealthy, and trying to manage their anger. Burnout was added to the ICD-11 (International Classification of Diseases) in 2019 and is defined by the World Health Organization as an occupational phenomenon resulting from “chronic stress at work that has not been successfully managed ”. People who suffer from it report “feelings of exhaustion or energy exhaustion”, “feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one’s work” and “reduced professional efficiency, or an ability to be effective in their work” . Familiar?
With the pandemic came a merging of home and work life which meant not only family responsibilities increased, as schools closed and daycares evaporated, but also working hours, with people at work. UK who reportedly increased their workweek by almost 25%, or two hours a day. Even as the blocks loosen, our screen addiction remains: a recent Ofcom study found that Britons are the biggest ‘internet junkies’ in Europe, with our inability to look away perpetuating feelings of exhaustion. And so we started to burn. Eye twitching, tears, a feeling of emptiness, painful fatigue that rises from the knees to the shoulders, then falls asleep. A new pandemic, measured in stress and cynicism, has followed Covid like a vapor trail.
And some companies are taking note, spraying the smoldering ashes of their workers. Apple has announced a new iPhone update. “Focus mode” will prevent devices from sending notifications of certain contacts outside of working hours. Last week, the dating app Bumble announced that it had given its entire global workforce of 700 people a week of paid time off to help tackle “mass burnout.” It was welcome – I can only imagine what it must have been like to work in a dating app until 2020, as Covid pushed humans everywhere with alternate sticks of loneliness and libido. These tech workers held entire relationships in their hands as people met and made love online only. No wonder they burned – there is only an amount of heat a person can handle.
LinkedIn, Facebook and Google have taken similar steps, with more surely to follow. It wouldn’t be out of the question, would it, for our government to impose a new statutory holiday in this regard? A column I once wrote that received a disproportionate amount of abuse was a mildly comical suggestion that I don’t find on holidays relaxing. That in fact I find a day at work more relaxing than the pressure of a day to unwind, where I am responsible for nurturing, entertaining and disciplining young children without the bliss of my own company and a hit thriller about. a morning commute. So I won’t make the mistake of sharing it again. Instead, I urge the Prime Minister to announce a new holiday, a day of outward exhaustion if you will, for those of us who no longer walk from bed to office to start another day. trying to do our best, but crawling and moaning. It can’t hurt, a lot.
But what then? What happens the next day, when we return to our tan and icy desks, refreshed after a day staring at our phones rather than our laptops? Send emails at dawn to show that we are present, that we exist, update the docs shared at midnight to show that we are essential and really very smart. Spend free minutes on our second job, which is uploading memes to various social media accounts that joke about how fabulously, dangerously busy we are. How can we avoid exhausting ourselves again, when we have become accustomed to proving our worth by working? Who is responsible for watering our flames?