Last week, the Chicago Tribune gave us insight into the modern worker with story titled, “One-fifth of Americans Find Workplace Hostile or Threatening.” The headline was the more sensational aspect of a report by the Rand Corp., Harvard Medical School, and UCLA.
It is disturbing to read that nearly one in five workers face incidents that include sexual harassment and bullying. Misery on the job can also occur because of rude or unpleasant customers. Almost 55% of respondents felt they had to deal with “unpleasant and potentially dangerous” conditions.
The lead author on the study claimed surprise at the physical demands that many jobs entailed. Included here was work that was described as “intense or repetitive physical labor.” Others were frustrated by a seeming lack of advancement opportunity. Or having to work outside the office to meet the demands of their job.
Less-educated people faced tougher working conditions. It was better for college educated men. As reported, “Nearly 68% of men without college degrees spend at least a fourth of their time moving heavy loads.”
It took to the end of this article to find the silver lining and learn that American workers have a lot of autonomy. Nearly 60% have supportive bosses. Well over 50% claim they have good friends at work.
Here’s the thing. Americans as a rule are NOT overworking. At least not dying from it. Contrast this with the Japanese who actually use the term”karoshi”: death by overwork!
In 2001, a report revealed a typical Japanese office worker can leave home at 7AM and return after 11PM, including two hours of commute time. Annually, hundreds of civil lawsuits have been filed by relatives who believe their loved one has died of karoshi. Some estimates claimed as many as 10,000 karoshi deaths a year.
Or consider this. In Britain, junior doctors frequently work more than 100 hours a week according to British Medical Association estimates. That works out to an average of 16 hours and 40 minutes a day for six days out of seven.
When is work TOO hard or TOO demanding? That is difficult to measure. Working your own farm takes incredible time and physical effort. Maybe it’s gotten somewhat easier, but an uncle of mine owned a farm in Minnesota for years. He was up before dawn most days to care for his crops and animals and put in very long days. Like most farmers, he enjoyed this work! Go figure.
A healthy view of work should come from a solid theology—a study of God. We are made in His image. We are gifted by God for work. God worked six days and rested. (Genesis 1:26-2:25)
From this we can also derive some lessons on what it means to work in God’s image. I recommend an excellent article from the Theology of Work Project, titled God Creates and Equips People to Work. One important aspect of working in God’s image is to work in relationship with others. As the author correctly states, “Many people form their closest relationships when some kind of work—whether paid or not—provides a common purpose and goal.”
The Bible encourages us to work hard. But working smart tells us not to burn out or lose the joy of our work. And…value relationships in your work!
For this Monday, here’s some work wisdom from Oscar Wilde: “The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.” Amen.
That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.
Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to www.1160hope.com for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.
Article on karoshi: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2001/mar/13/workandcareers.japan
Article on God Creates and Equips People to Work: