Mental Health in Tech — Are We Paying Attention?
We got so busy riding on the gold rush in Tech and developed bad habits like working 80 hours per week and always being on the run.
Thеse habits we’ve been developing have started to disrupt the mental health of our whole generation. Being relaxed has become a luxury. And the worst part is, it seems like we are addicted to it. It seems like we just want more and more.
Until we collapse. Just like the founder of The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, collapsed from exhaustion in a hotel room, breaking her cheekbone. This unhappy event made her realize how unhealthy and toxic her life had become. After this, she became a sleeping advocate, trying to raise awareness with her book “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time”.
She told CNBC that The Huffington Post became successful when she started taking care of herself. What she emphasizes is that when she is exhausted, she is actually the worst version of herself. More reactive, less empathetic, and less creative. She believes that you can’t think you will be more productive if you don’t take care of yourself. And we couldn’t agree more.
Other companies have figured this out as well. Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini pays his employees up to $500 to get more sleep. The solution is simple — if the company’s employees can prove they’ve spent 20 nights sleeping for more 7 or more hours in a row, they get $25 per night, up to $500 per year.
Bertolini states that his employees are expected to make good business decisions, and they can’t do it if they are half-asleep.
And he’s right. Researches show that being awake from 17 to 19 hours has the same effect as a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 percent, which is the legal drinking limit in many countries. Furthermore, 20 hours of being awake make you behave like you have a blood-alcohol level of 0.1 percent, which is the US legal drinking limit. So, staying at work all day won’t make you more productive, obviously.
Do you think you are a better worker if you work 60, 70 or 80 hours a week? Does it sound cool when you say you are a workaholic? No, it just makes you exhausted.
And yet, people still brag about not sleeping and having an 80-hour work week. Like that’s something you should be praised for. Being exhausted won’t make you better at your job. On the contrary, it will make you less patient, rude, stubborn, and bad professional. Don’t think that you have to solve everything today. Most of the things can wait until the morning. Go home and sleep.
According to a study from the University of Georgia, there is a major difference between being engaged to work and being addicted to it. Being engaged to work means enjoying it and being passionate about it while being addicted, or as we tend to say, a workaholic, is mostly linked to negative emotions.
“Our results show that while unrelated to job performance, workaholism does influence other aspects like job stress, greater work-life conflict, decreased physical health and job burnout that indicate workers aren’t going to be productive,” said Malissa Clark, the lead author of the study.
It also affects your love life. Workaholics have a feeling that their work life is their life and they don’t have space for other kinds of emotions. Being with a workaholic can be pretty hard. In fact, 55% of marriages that have at least one workaholic end up with a divorce.
Even when you’re starting a business, it doesn’t mean that your life stops here. A lot of people believe that they need to work for 80 hours per week until their businesses get up on their feet and work less later. Well, Jason Fried, founder of Basecamp, disagrees. He believes that once you get used to an 80-hour work week, there’s no going back. We are creatures of habits, and once we form one, we carry it on.
One thing that makes people stay at work for too long is the number of projects they are involved in. They have to put in work for each one of them. What I often read in job ads is that the candidate needs to possess an “ability to multitask”. What does this mean anyway? An ability to stay sane while having to handle 647 clients at the same time? And doing a good job, of course.
Maybe companies need to think about prioritizing projects and not putting so much pressure on their employees’ backs. Prioritizing projects and making a good schedule is crucial. Appreciating the time and the human capital of your own company will also make others appreciate them as well. No client is more important than your employee’s mental health.
You don’t have to live at work to feel like you’re doing a good job. You don’t have to be constantly seeking ways to be super-productive. (Not eating all day? Seriously?) You don’t have to read a book every week because that’s what’s cool in the startup world now, and you don’t have to have a 100-hour-long work week because Elon Musk has one.
You can still be good at your job. By coming to work rested. By cooking a good meal and not eating fast food because you just don’t have time for it. By loving your family and having time for them. By going home on time and having an evening to yourself. By actually reading a book that you will understand, no matter how long it takes. By releasing yourself from the pressure that you need to change the world. Simply, by being happy.