When The Work Isn’t Enough
Why is it so hard to have an honest conversation about work and workaholism?
Every so often there’s a conversation that explodes online about the realities of workaholism. You see it in Silicon Valley. In medicine. In law. In the games industry. Frankly, it happens in any job or profession where people are asked to grind away for long hours.
And yet… it never really makes much progress.
For sure, modern workers talk a lot now about balance and burnout than they used to. There are growing ideas about “bringing you full self” to your job, and discussion that brims with self-awareness and mindfulness and wokeness.
But we see the same patterns and responses time and time again. The demand that success isn’t possible without unending hustle, or the need to have a work ethic so punishing that it involves sleeping by your desk. Sometimes the needle feels like it’s not shifted at all.
So are we really addressing what’s going on? Or are we, for the most part, trying to stay sane in an insane environment?
The structures we are part of often dictate how we draw boundaries around the work we do. Silicon Valley, for example, is a place where everybody tries to fool themselves into thinking they’re not working. People don’t have jobs, they have a mission. They’re not collecting a pay check, they’re changing the world.
Young engineers arrive in the tech industry, get a job that pays them more money than they can spend, then work all day, go to the gym, go home, work some more. At weekends they scrape themselves out of bed and stumble to brunch (and it’s always brunch) or they go on a hike with their friends to get some air in their lungs and remind themselves that there’s a world outside. Then they get out their laptops, or check their phones and work some more while nobody’s looking.
And the industry fluffs this self-delusion at every opportunity. The free lunches, unlimited snacks, rivers of La Croix and lakes of booze; the free haircuts, the nap pods, the yoga classes, the music rooms, the video games. It’s not indulgence, it’s self-care, right? It just so happens that this self care keeps you near your desk, working late into the night, or weekends.
Here’s the reality: Burnout is very real—and hugely destructive. But it’s time to move the conversation forward.
The problem with burnout is that by the time you recognize what’s happening, it’s often already too late. And it isn’t the only way that work and mental health intersect. Workaholism isn’t just something our jobs do to us, it is an addiction that we use to deal with—or avoid—tough questions in our own lives, or from our own backgrounds. It’s a complicated conversation, but there’s never a better time to tackle it than today.
That’s why we’re raising funds for Anxy №2 on Kickstarter right now. We’re already a week in, and we’ve made a lot of progress—but we need your support.
Anxy magazine is a bi-annual print publication that we started last year to change the conversation about mental health. It’s been hard, but we’re chipping away: Anxy №1 has had some rave mentions, and helped change some minds.
But the most important part for us is that readers have expressed exactly what this means to them.
It matters massively to us that people write in and say things like “thank you from the bottom of my heart for collecting these profound narratives,” or tell us that what Anxy brings is “sophistication… editorial intelligence… pure craftmanship in writing, editing and designing… brilliantly done.”
Those are real comments from real people.
So now, we’re turning that lens onto the subject of our jobs and our lives.
Anxy №2: The Workaholism Issue features an in-depth exploration of the spectrum of ways in which work affects our mental health.
We’ve got interviews with people who are making their struggles public for the first time, we’ve got reporting and essays from around the world, and we’ve got haunting, moving photography. There’s an interview with amazing comedian Neal Brennan; a photo-essay on caring for the dying; examinations of anxiety, mania, trauma… and much more. It’s 144 pages of beautiful design, astonishing art, and powerful storytelling.
If you’ve read our stories before, you know what we’re capable of. If you follow our publication on Medium… this is why we’re here. And if you believe that it’s time to have real, honest conversations about the complicated role work plays in our lives, then support us, share what we’re doing, and help change it.