Working late is fashionable. What about worked to death?


The ‘work hard, party harder’ idiom has shifted into ‘party hard, work harder’ gear. So that young executives who coop themselves up in their stale-aired office cubicles for hours on end have started by default to get a buzz from overwork. Working late is fashionable and indicates a non-stop brain, handy utilizing of insomnia and an addiction to meeting deadlines. So that the excuse of not being able to make it somewhere for personal purposes because of work is met with furious nods. It is cool to hang out at office.

What it does to social life, food habits and the vital organs though is not pretty.

Pradnya Paramita, who worked as a copywriter at US-based MNC Young & Rubicam, died in December last year at the age of 27. A winner of national awards for her output in advertising, this is what she tweeted before she went into a coma: ‘30 hours of working and still going strooong.’

MoritzErhardt, a 21-year-old intern with MerrillLynch, reportedly succumbed to an epileptic seizure in his London home after a 72-hour shift in August. A 24-year-old man employed with Ogilvy & Mather in China – said to be putting in overtime during the nights – collapsed at work from a heart attack in May.

These sad stories point to one of the truer truths in modern times: the human body is not designed to handle too much work. Stress, both mental and physical coupled with any other miscellaneous stress of the moment, including financial and domestic, wreaks havoc with the body’s ability to cope.

We witness this during exam times at school or college; how the bright ones, the ones singled out for future championships and scholarships, don’t make it in the end. How, when the actual time comes, they cannot perform. Apart from general anxiety there are also the all-nighters, the studying round the clock, the 24/7 alertness that take their toll.

If you make it out of the rigorous academic rigmarole then more carousels await. Walking the career catwalk takes up all of your body, all of your mind. You start off trying to look busy and end up just plain busy.

Perhaps there is a ban on lethargy, loafing around, twiddling thumbs, on stopping to smell the roses. Around two decades ago, vacations at last had begun to make sense to the average middleclass Indian. Soon he started to arrange meditation sessions and massage getaways, in a bid to soothe his soul and straighten his spine. The whole ‘eat pray love’ thing made sense; he discovered the package tour.

But then he realized that others toiled and got ahead while he slept, that it was not staying in but staying away from the work environment that gave him the ulcers. He needed to be where the action is. Or, he feared, he’d become a has-been before his time. So here he is, lining up like an urban OliverTwist, asking for more work, please.To be worked to the bone, ah, that is today’s yuppie dream. The wolves of Wall Street know what they are about. So that even relaxation is regimented, all planned and booked and taken into account.

Striving for promotions and senior positions is all very fine, but make sure there is a you to promote. No one gets out of life alive, but there is no bar on getting out of work alive.