Without a shadow of a doubt, the Slack notification sound is going to spark a feeling of complete contempt when we reach middle age burn-out. That ridiculous trill intended to make work seem like a fun little group chat is perhaps the worst man-made sound in existence. Why? Because it signals a quickly narrowing gap between our real lives and our work lives.
Corporations are now actively converting workers into true believers who spread the gospel of their mission statement and dedicate every possible minute to the company’s quadruple bottom line. We are expected to enter a workforce where we swallow this corporate propaganda and submit. Toxic productivity is on the horizon, and we need to be on our guard.
For a lot of college students, excessive work begins in service jobs and in our K-8 schools. Kids are overscheduled, overburdened and expected to participate in program after program. We become teens and start working at McDonald's, Whole Foods or other entry-level jobs. We take on too many shifts and say yes to working overtime because the word "no" never entered our vocabulary.
Children are taught from a very young age to be accommodating and hard-working. These are valuable character traits that lead to success, but taken too far cause lasting damage. We never learned how to set boundaries with our superiors or employers.
This translates into a manic work culture in the offices and workspaces we are soon to occupy. Not only are we expected to work more than the standard 9 to 5, but also we are expected to do it out of the goodness of our hearts. We need to love our companies, not just work for them.
We are “team-members," not employees. Our tasks are not just work, they are a customer satisfaction mission. Our boss’s to-do list has become an integrated pathway to success. This corporate doublespeak is used to mask the abuses against overworked and under-compensated employees.
Even our leisure time is turning into part of the productivity cycle. We meditate to keep a clear head at work. We need eight hours of sleep so we can punch in on time. We need to eat healthy to make sure that our bodies function while working overtime. Like automatons, we refuel for the purpose of working harder.
An increasing standard of living in the U.S. should mean more leisure. We need time for our families and ourselves not because it makes us better workers, but because it is our right. Before you call us entitled, lazy, children, remember that pursuit of happiness is something our founding fathers thought was important enough to write down.
Workers’ strikes, union negotiations and landmark workers' rights bills in the last century transformed the derelict conditions of working during the industrial revolution into healthier and more manageable work lives. That said, this is a continuous struggle against the corporate bottom line. We need to continue to set more boundaries and make it clear that as employees, we do not live for the company’s income statement.
People, human beings, are not machines (a point you would have to be very oblivious or very selfish to miss). We need a purpose greater than a corporate breakdown of this quarter’s goals. We need time to dedicate to our lives without feeling guilty for not working.
It is not as easy as just saying no to your boss. For one, some of us cannot afford to lose a job or work fewer hours. It is difficult to just say no when your peers buy into this work mania and get promoted and you do not.
We need to collectively protect our rights as workers. Organize with your coworkers if you can. Join a union if there is one for your field. Talk about wages with each other and realize that your company does not own you. If you can afford to say no to extra hours, no to answering emails when you are off from work, no to dedicating your life to a company that frankly does not care about you, then do it.
Take time to learn what values you have and what goals you have. If you want to dedicate your life to a company, then do it, but make sure you are doing it out of your own free will, not out of an inability to say no to an increasingly powerful corporate grip.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 153rd editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.