On a Sunday afternoon this April, a program manager at HSBC bank in London sat down to “prep for this week’s work,” when he had a heart attack. He didn’t see his life flash before his eyes or even think about his three children. Instead, his first thoughts were about work!
He typically worked 12-hour days, and even during the COVID shutdowns he spent most of his days on zoom calls, not spending time with his family. The heart attack was the culmination of many years of stress and long hours that built up in trying to get ahead in the work world.
He survived the heart attack, but in the weeks of recuperation that followed he reflected on his priorities and pledged to rethink his relationship with work. He posted his thoughts on LinkedIn, and in a few days more than 200,000 people responded.
Most agreed with him that work has come to dominate our lives in unhealthy ways. One, a management consultant, wrote, “I know countless people in the last few years who have suffered life-threatening illnesses just simply because there is no downtime…It’s absolutely detrimental to our health, but we’re built on the existence that we always have to keep pushing.”
This belief that we have to keep pushing, always compete, work hard to get ahead, do our best to keep our jobs, isn’t “built” into our genetic DNA. These ideas are taught to us through the dictates and incentives of capitalism, the economic system that has separated the vast majority of humans from the ability to provide for ourselves, and forced us to scramble to work for those who have monopolized the necessities of everyday life. And this economic system and the beliefs it has fostered are literally killing people.
But, if we all join together and work to change this system, we can. Let’s take this system out, before it takes us out!