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Inside the spectrum of stress-heavy work culture

Over the last decade, the culture of taking up work that is generally more rigorous in stress has become a norm. Unfortunately, in many instances, it has extended to a culture that expects individuals to take up stress-heavy work if they want to do well.

Many often feel overwhelmed with “having too much” of everything. In this fast-paced world, there is a constant need for various types of work, one after the other. If it is one project this week, there is another project the following week. Or if there is one running collaboration, more are coming in. It is a never-ending spiral of new task loads every day of the week, throughout every annual calendar.

This often results in tight deadlines making employees overwhelmed. And these deadlines are assigned without taking into consideration factors such as transport hours, planning hours, exhaustion from one position to another, etcetera. As such, one tight deadline, which may seemingly not be as difficult, is often more challenging for the person responsible in real life.

Moreover, these tight deadlines aren’t often autonomously decided by the employee. Sometimes their supervisors or workplace superiors assign tasks and expect them to complete the work at all costs. In fact, in some instances, the amount of work assigned may be more than what the employee is supposed to do based on the employment contract. Nevertheless, many employees continue to work because they expect “brownie points” for their goodwill to work hard and deliver.

There is often little scope for taking breaks within these deadlines. Modern living’s hectic pace can make it difficult for us to plan, making individuals feel unprepared for the workday and adding to their stress levels. This becomes even more challenging when they get a long period without any break due to the constant workload.

Especially within the competitive realm of today’s world, most organizations are constantly striving to stay competitive. In this race, nobody wants to risk being lagged by others because of the fear of lagging “too much.” As such, employees are expected to work hard till success is achieved. And because there is no end to that success, the cycle continues where employees try to achieve one target after another.

This competition also extends to the job market. It is common these days to have many available applicants and job-seekers for a singular role. This means the employer knows, in many cases, that they have an alternative employee standby and may therefore take the contribution for granted in a mindset that whatever contribution is made by that individual is not exclusive. This situation also results in insecurity of the employee because they know they might as well be replaced if their performance does not meet the expectation. Job contracts do not offer much job security in most instances; employees feel that they have to take up a stress-heavy workload to stay in their position.

Moreover, employees are often motivated in a way that they believe the only way to rise on the ladder in their organizational organogram is by working “extra” hard to stand out. They are often in the disguise of the belief that there is no alternative to that. Again, this stems from the social expectation to do well and be validated.

Mainly because employees are not free from the need for social validation from their peers and more – they too cooperate. They want to hear good remarks from their workplace superiors in their monthly or annual performance reviews. Not only may this allow them to have a promotion sooner, but this extends the feel-good emotion because they can tell themselves that they did “good enough.” Often, individuals have a unique social value if they do well at a relatively early age. It is somehow presumed to be outstanding and, therefore, celebrated. Because of this, young workers at most offices often choose to work extensively in the hope of an early career boost for themselves. Although whether the choice is coerced or not based on the pressure that social expectation puts on them is a concern, working “extra” towards a head start has become a norm.

This rush towards a headstart originates early and often before someone has joined a formal workplace. Starting from extracurricular activities at school to other competitive sports, etcetera – everyone is continuously trying to grind their way up. And this practice is often easily extended to their work life.

Because this culture is very demanding, some adjustments have occurred over time from both the employers and the employees. For instance, there are payments for extra working hours that an employee receives for working more than their primarily designated hours. Many choose to work in that scope, often willingly or sometimes even being coerced because they have other responsibilities on their shoulders for which they need to earn that little extra money.

Because the culture that has grown up is deep-rooted, many have accepted this as the norm for various reasons. And that has, as a result, overshadowed crucial concerns such as mental health, fair payment, etcetera. These concerns must come to light because fairness on all levels is essential. Moreover, these factors are integral to the employee’s well-being and are often directly correlated to the organization’s success. By addressing the core issues with expert consultation, it is plausible to create a work culture that works best for the interest of all.

Author- Ahmad Tousif Jami

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