Toxic work?

Anne-Marie Slaughter laments excessive workplace demands.  She’s right to raise the issue, and generally raises the right issues.  The problem is especially severe for those at the bottom and the top of the wage gamut.  At the bottom:

When an abundance of overly rigid workplaces causes 42 million American citizens to live day to day in fear that just one single setback will prevent them from being able to care for their children, it’s not their problem, but ours.

At the top of the income scale, I’m particularly glad she notes that, notwithstanding popular theory, this is not a story about women leaving high-powered jobs to spend more time with their families–women and men leave in roughly equal numbers.  It’s a story of unsustainably long hours, and that’s a problem that will continue to erode family life for everyone if left unchecked.Johannes_Vermeer_-_A_Woman_Asleep_at_Table_(detail)_-_WGA24610
My minor quibble is that I don’t care for her invocation of an “epidemic of stress.”  Stress is a physiological condition whose origins and health effects remain imperfectly understood.  It isn’t clear that long hours create stress, or that the stress it does create adversely affects health.


So here’s a different take on it: Health is a resource for everyday living.  Jobs–whether at the low end or the high-end–that take away the opportunity to participate in everyday life by making child-rearing, exercise, and socializing difficult are a health hazard in themselves.  No need to make an iffy connection through stress.  Even if working 100 hours a week isn’t physiologically stressful, it prevents participation in everyday life.  Living to work, instead of working to live, is not a healthy lifestyle.


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