Is your Job Killing you?

Leanne Gannon is editor of She & Co Magazine

With the culture of overworking becoming more and more common, why do we allow ourselves to be worked into the ground? Millennials graduated in a time when companies weren't hiring and the Job Bridge scheme was in full and terrible force (a government backed internship scheme that allowed employers to hire interns and pay them 50 quid a week on top of their social welfare payments), which saw widespread abuse and new graduates faced with such internships and opportunities as 'intern takeaway assistant' or 'intern retail assistant'. I kid you not. 

Leaving education in this climate meant immediate paid employment in a professional field was akin to discovering a unicorn in your back garden. New graduates became accustomed to the notion of interning and working for free to gain experience and exposure while trying to keep their heads above water financially and secure a roof over said head for another month. 

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After slogging through months as an unpaid intern, finally when gainful employment beckoned and the career door creaked open, new graduates (myself included) were incredibly grateful at the opportunity. Despite the fact that it was hard earned and well-deserved. Pleased and delighted that the trouble and toil had finally paid off (yes, I'm in Halloween mode already). 

This delight and to be honest, sheer relief, at having secured a job at last has led to a millennial workforce of eager-to-please, hardworking young professionals too nervous to say no. We don't say no to extra hours, to unpaid overtime (oh hello my old nemesis) and unmanageable workloads. We are an employer's DREAM. We don't say no and we don't stand up for ourselves for fear of not being 'a team player' or in hopes the boss will take note of our efforts. I may sound like a hard-nosed cynic at the ripe old age of 29 but no employer is going to say no to free labour. 

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Last week, multiple media sources reported the incredibly sad story of the Japanese journalist who died aged just 31 after working a mind-blowing 159 hours of overtime in just a month while covering a Japanese election. This is shockingly, not uncommon in Japan where they have even coined a term to describe death from overworking – karoshi. One fifth of all employees in that part of the world are at risk of dying from strokes, heart attacks and suicide from being overworked. 

Here on our own little island, the Journal writes of an anonymous PR worker who was told by her doctor to quit her job when her stress levels began to have a serious impact on her health. She speaks about the constant pressure to perform, the pressure to always say yes and put up with whatever is thrown in your direction, to your own detriment. 

The fact of the matter is, employers are fortunate to have such an engaged and educated workforce and young professionals need to realise this. Employers need to understand the value that these young professionals bring to the table and to appreciate ideas, initiative and hard work instead of taking advantage of it. 

Technology is great and is now such an integral part of our lives but it also makes it so much harder for us to switch off or take some down time. Smartphones mean we are never unavailable for an email at 11pm or weekend call and workers in the UK have seen a significant rise in stress over the last 12 years. Irish Health have written of the physical effects doctors are now seeing in stressed employees [...] "They may have neck pain, back pain, jaw pain from grinding their teeth. Many of these people are in genuine chronic pain". 

When it gets to the stage that stress and anxiety begin to manifest as physical pain, you things are bad and need to be addressed. If you are feeling the effects of work-related stress, make sure you speak to a doctor about ways you can manage your stress and avoid burnout.