Showing up to your workplace sick isn’t good for anyone, yet people do it anyway. Obviously, the sick person would rather stay home to heal and feel better (nobody plans on getting their peers ill). Why is it then that we all go to work when we should stay at home? A major factor in people’s thinking is based on corporate policy and workplace culture – both things we can change. Some companies already provide unlimited vacation days to address this. If you’re sick, try to stay home; and if you’re not sick try to change your corporate policies or practices.
Sometimes, of course, it’s due to a martyr complex—the feeling that work cannot possibly go on without them, or a notion that they’ll get points for dragging themselves into work while sick.
If you don’t want people coming to work sick, don’t financially penalize them for staying home. When it’s a choice between paying the rent or staying home when they’re ill, most people will come to work, contagious or not.
The term “hustle porn” covers all those ridiculous Youtube videos about get-rich schemes and stories by so-called hard-workers making tons of money because they “work hard”. In practice these people are selling ideological snake oil and it’s hurting vulnerable individuals. They argue that hustling all the time will automatically lead to financial success; and this attitude grew quickly in Silicon Valley. However, it’s clear that this always-be-busy approach to life is losing its appeal – and that’s a good thing.
Last week, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian called bullshiton this culture, too. “Hustle Porn is one of the most toxic, dangerous things in tech right now. This idea that unless you are suffering, grinding working every hour of every day, you’re not working hard enough.” Ohanian, a product of Y-Combinator, a California based start-up hub, argued that Silicon Valley has for too long encouraged its employees to work extremely long hours under the guise that it would lead to both a better product and them becoming better people. “It has deleterious effects not just on your business but on your well-being,” he added, referencing the death of his mother that occurred while he was building Reddit. “As entrepreneurs, we are all so busy ‘crushing it’ that physical health, let alone mental health, is an afterthought for most founders. It took me years to realize that the way I was feeling — when working on Reddit was the only therapy I had — was depression.”
Along those same lines, in a Medium post last month, Nat Eliason, founder of another startup hub, Growth Machine, wrote, “Struggle porn has normalized sustained failure. It’s made it acceptable to fly to Bali and burn through your life savings trying to launch an Amazon dropshipping business. Made it reasonable to keep living on your parents money for years after graduation while you try to become #instafamous. Made LinkedIn into a depressingly hilarious circle jerk for people who look way too excited to be having their headshot taken.”
Long commutes feel like a slog, but there are benefits to sitting on a train and staring out the window everyday. Londoners have some of the longest commutes in Europe which has led to some neat research into the benefits of these long and regular journeys. On the way to and from work people are able to contemplate their work-life and have a clear separation between work and home. Another, more obvious, benefit is that people who take public transit to work are healthier than those who drive.
To find out more, Richard Patterson at Imperial College London analysed detailed data from the English National Travel Survey, allowing him to determine exactly how much exercise the average commuter gleans from their daily journey. He found that roughly a third of public transport commuters met the government’s recommendations of 30-minutes exercise a day, through their commute alone.
Patterson points out that governments could consider these benefits when they decide their funding for transport networks, since encouraging people to give up their cars and take a train or bus could end up having a real effect on public health. In the UK, for instance, he calculates that a 10% increase in the use of public transport could result in 1.2 million more people reaching the recommended levels of physical activity. “Some decisions, which may not seem to have much to do with health, can have these knock-on effects for people’s wellbeing,” he says.
Many people want to change how their coworkers or their boss views them in the workplace, and no matter the reason for wanting a change there are tons of suggestions on how to do so. Indeed the self help industry in the USA is worth $10 billion dollars! That’s a lot of desire for self-improvment in American offices. Here’s a tip to save you money: don’t buy those self-help shills and instead get some self-reflection. It turns out that being conscious of how those around and adding in some metacognition is all you need.
According to executive coach Joel Garfinkle — whose advice is geared more toward your professional relationships — if you’re trying to change the way your coworkers see you, pay close attention to how your behavior impacts them. “Start by being honest with yourself. Notice how your behavior affects those around you. How do people react to you in meetings? In the coffee room or at lunch? If clients aren’t returning your calls, perhaps your behavior is making them feel pressured or uncomfortable,” Garfinkle writes on his blog.
The idea here is that by being honest with yourself about the way you affect others, you can begin to make behavioral changes, like talking less and listening more. “If you’re the type who usually dominates the conversation in meetings or groups, try keeping absolutely quiet and taking notes for a change,” writes Garfinkle. “If you usually hang back and let others take the spotlight, write down some key points that are relevant to the topic being discussed and speak up.” According to Garfinkle, making these changes will slowly change your colleagues’ perception of you.
Attacks on unions isn’t anything new, even when workers are asking for safer conditions or a little job security. What is new is that economists are starting to realize that we need stronger worker groups to advocate for labour or the economy as a whole suffers. Over the last few decades we’ve witnessed the rise of massive corporations that bully governments and workers; inevitably this process will gut the productive parts of planet (with fantastic short-term gains!). So, if we want our economy to do well for decades on end we need to ensure that all people involved in it get a share of the benefits.
A complementary approach would be to increase workers’ power. Historically, this has been most effectively done by bringing more workers into unions. Across advanced economies, wage inequality tends to rise as the share of workers who are members of unions declines. A new paper examining detailed, historical data from America makes the point especially well. Henry Farber, Daniel Herbst, Ilyana Kuziemko and Mr Naidu find that the premium earned by union members in America has held remarkably constant during the post-war period. But in the 1950s and 1960s the expansion of unions brought in less-skilled workers, squeezing the wage distribution and shrinking inequality. Unions are not the only way to boost worker power. More radical ideas like a universal basic income—a welfare payment made to everyone regardless of work status—or a jobs guarantee, which extends the right to a government job paying a decent wage to everyone, would shift power to workers and force firms to work harder to retain employees.