The year was 2016. I was having a conversation with a mentor about work. He told me a story about someone who had died from overwork. The deceased’s company took out a half page ad for his obituary and right next to it, a full page ad for the new job opening. That image has never left me. Whoever you work for values your work but if you vanished today, they’d replace you. Despite this, many people in Nigeria refuse to take breaks from work.
Perhaps, we have a culture in Nigeria of glorifying those who work late into the night. Employers praise those who are always the first at their desks and the last to leave. If you work in such an organisation, the fear of being labelled “unserious” might stop you from taking your leave.
A lot of workers are complaining about stress at work. I’m not completely sure why. It could be a result of smaller teams having to deal with more complex projects. This often means an individual has to manage responsibilities that aren’t always in their area of expertise or require learning new skills. Naturally, this can be a source of anxiety which contributes to feelings of stress.
Anytime I read a Statement like “Hustle Culture” and “Working till we make it”, I cringe. For every one of those statements you read, there is someone out there experiencing burnout because they have bought into the fiction that successful people are working late hours every day and surviving on four hours of sleep. That fiction has become so pervasive in some cultures that people are literally dropping dead from work-related exhaustion. Japan actually has a word for this phenomenon: Karoshi. While the Japanese work culture may represent an extreme case, many people around the world are experiencing work-related stress.