“The Working Man is the Happy Man” is an old German proverb. The corollary; “But who needs all that happiness?”
The proverb is dead wrong. 80% or American workers suffer from high stress on the job. Half seek treatment because it is so debilitating.
Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book, “Attitude in the American Workplace”, describes the situation in detail. Employers know about the problem of high stress, at least half of them do. But only 5% are doing anything about it.
One survey found that 59% of workers respond to work related emails after work. More than half don’t use all of their allotted holiday time. Work related stress may account for 120,000 American deaths a year. I have personally known a lot of people who died this way. The biggest contributor seems to be the lack of health care for many people who badly need it. Many employer health plans are very limited.
There are a few other factors at work like the gig economy and increasing employee surveillance. Contract employees are less likely to have adequate health insurance. Their contracts are usually short term, which leads to uncertainty and stress.
Technology Adds to the Problem
Increasingly intrusive surveillance technology is making things even more stressful. Google recently patented an ultrasonic device to track worker’s hands. Upworks monitors freelancer’s activities through their webcams.
Around 94% of America’s companies monitor worker activities in one way or another. A new system called Teramind sends pop-up warnings if it sees that employees are about to slack off or send confidential documents. Hubstaff records employees web activities, including the web sites they visit and how much they are typing. Not to mention the web cams strung about like Christmas tree lights.
To make matters worse, many offices are experimenting with the “hot desk” system. You don’t have an assigned desk. You grab whatever desk is available when you arrive for work.
The Human Guinea Pig
Another experiment with very dubious results is the open office. No partitions, no privacy. The theory is that fewer barriers mean more communication. What actually happens is less communication as people need their privacy. Fewer conversations, more emails. Also less work due to more interruptions and the difficulty in concentrating.
So what can you about this? Go to your boss and complain? Not a good idea as this would just put you in line for increased surveillance. One approach is to learn everything you can about the surveillance systems in use and develop clever ways to spoof them. This helps in two ways. You feel better right away, and you enjoy being able to have at least some say in the matter.
Another possible solution is to find something that you can do on your own and develop it part time. Build it up gradually until you reach the point where you can quit your job. Maybe hire a few employees. Then procure some software to keep tabs on them.
The Happiness Handbook
Another solution resides on the pages of my book, The Happiness Handbook. Get your copy today from Amazon. FREE to Kindle Unlimited members.