The Charge of the Employed Brigade

A Little Ditty on (Over)Working

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Above: How heavy are our digital devices?


A dear friend of mine recently shared a study on the clear and present danger of overwork.

In case its title—Global, regional, and national burdens of ischemic heart disease and stroke attributable to exposure to long working hours for 194 countries, 2000–2016: A systematic analysis from the WHO/ILO Joint Estimates of the Work-related Burden of Disease and Injury—scares you (as it did me), CNBC offers a more legible interpretation:

Long working hours are killing hundreds of thousands of people around the world every year, according to the findings of a study by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization.


In joint research by the global public health and employment bodies, the WHO and ILO estimated there were 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, marking a 29% increase since 2000.


The study, published in the Environment International journal Monday, was a first global analysis of the loss of life and health associated with working long hours.


The WHO and ILO estimated that 398,000 people died from stroke and 347,000 from heart disease in 2016 as a result of having worked at least 55 hours a week. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42%, and from stroke by 19%.


The study concluded that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared with working 35-40 hours a week. In 2016, 488 million people worldwide were exposed to long working hours of more than 55 hours a week, the WHO and ILO estimated.


The “work-related disease burden” was found to be particularly significant in men (72% of deaths occurred among males), people living in the Western Pacific (in which the WHO includes China, South Korea, Australia and Japan among other countries) and Southeast Asia regions, and middle aged or older workers, the WHO said Monday.

Whether the above study was shared as cautionary forewarning or mere interesting tidbit, I know not. Cristin, please advise 😬.

Regardless, it inspired a great deal of personal reflection on the modern worker; on how (s)he seemingly lives to work instead of works to live.

These strands of thought, introspection, observation are still rather delicate and unformed. As such, I shall hold them in reserve for now.

Instead, below I imagine a more modern, office-centric, corporate read of Tennyson’s epic “The Charge of the Light Brigade” to celebrate (read as: bemoan) the condition of the modern worker.


The Charge of the Employed Brigade

Above: The War at Work


I
Half a day, half a day,
Half a day onward,
All in the valley of Work
Rode the rest-hungered.
“Forward, the Ops Brigade!
Charge the deadline!” he said.
Into the valley of Work
Rode the six hundred.

II
“Forward, the Ops Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the analyst knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to ping and die.
Into the valley of Work
Rode the six hundred.

III
Email to right of them,
Email to left of them,
Email behind them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with sync and shell,
Boldly they worked and well,
Into the QBR,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.

IV
Flashed all their iPhones bare,
Flashed as they Slacked o’er air
Surveying the cust’mers there,
Charging a deadline, while
All the world wondered.
Plunged in executive smoke
Right through KPIs they broke;
Reeled from the feedback’s stroke
Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

V
Email to right of them,
Email to left of them,
Email behind them
Bouncéd and thundered;
Stormed at by personnel,
While task and to-do fell.
They that had worked so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the QBR from hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

VI
When can performance fade?
O the presentation made!
All the office wondered.
Honor the role they played!
Honor the Ops Brigade,
Noble six hundred!


Rest in Peace, Uncle Steve

Knowledge of death’s approach makes its arrival no less difficult.

This week I lost my “Uncle” Steve Clancy. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Below are a few that I think capture the great joy, keen humor, and deep love with which he led his life.

Rest easy, Uncle Steve. Here’s hoping that every day resembles a New York City St. Patrick’s Day up there. Keep the apple puffs warm, the Guinness cold, and the bagpipes loud. Until we meet again, may God hold you squarely in the palm of His hand.


Per my about pageWhite Noise is a work of experimentation. I view it as a sort of thinking aloud, a stress testing of my nascent ideas. Through it, I hope to sharpen my opinions against the whetstone of other people’s feedback, commentary, and input.

If you want to discuss any of the ideas or musings mentioned above or have any books, papers, or links that you think would be interesting to share on a future edition of White Noise, please reach out to me by replying to this email.

With sincere gratitude,

Tom