Friday, September 28, 2012

Overworked Americans are a hazard

I read with interest Michael T. Snyder's piece a few days ago "Americans are literally being worked to death." Here is a snippet--

"Are you constantly tired and do you feel incredibly stressed almost all the time? Well, that means that there is a really good chance that you are a typical American worker. Even though our incomes are going down, Americans are spending more time at work than ever before. In fact, U.S. workers spend more time at work than anyone else in the world. But it was not always this way. Back in 1970, the average work week for an American worker was about 35 hours. Today, it is up to 46 hours. But there are other major economies around the globe that are doing just fine without burning their workers out. For example, the average American worker spends 378 more hours working per year than the average German worker does."

"Sadly, for many Americans work is not even finished once they leave the office. According to one recent survey, the average American worker spends an extra seven hours per week on work tasks such as checking emails and answering phone calls after normal work hours have finished. Other Americans are juggling two or three jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet. Americans are busier than ever and work is often pushing the other areas of our lives on to the back burner. What this also means is that "family vacations" are becoming increasingly rare in the United States. In fact, Americans spend less days on vacation than anyone else in the industrialized world. While some would applaud our "work ethic", the truth is that the fact that we are being overworked is having some very serious consequences. In fact, as you will see below, Americans are literally being worked to death."

For the first time in a while I'm only working 40 hours per week. It is still stressful though, because of a reduction in our staff numbers. So we were told we have to work smarter and stretch. This means we are all taking on more duties, and working in a more rushed fashion than ever before to complete an ever-growing list of tasks during those 8 hours. Add to that a growing bureaucratic regulations that must be attended to and the list of things to accomplish during the day gets quite long.

Many Americans are working two and three jobs, and still, pay has gone down and our money buys less. The treadmill is outpacing us.
I lived on a sailboat for two years. I was a live-aboard cruiser. I learned so many valuable lessons during that time. We didn't have radar or GPS or self-steering. Me and my husband stood watches through the night in shifts, did our own navigation by old fashioned ways, and when we anchored, (no marina for us) we rowed to shore in a dinghy.

We had some rules though. We understood that with fatigue, comes mistakes. On a sailboat, mistakes could cost us our lives. We respected what our bodies were telling us and we didn't try to stretch things. We never made a passage that took more than 48 hours, knowing that our bodies would not adjust well to a prolonged two-hour on, two hour sleep rotation very well. When we're tired, we can't think as clearly.

Above is a still from the Bob Ballard-NatGeo show Alien Deep, episode "Wrecks of the abyss." The team was looking for ancient wrecks and their radar showed a hit. They deployed the submersible, and as it approached the radar bump, the crew gasped (and me too) as the camera panned over the deep sea bottom to show a modern yacht, fully intact, resting gently upright, sails still deployed. It was the S/V Miranda out of Heidelberg. Now it is forever sailing the eternal deep, its fate a mystery. My husband and I knew that even in calm weather, one instant of inattention or mistaken decision-making could yield a fate like this for us, too. We were careful and tried not to allow fatigue to set in.

Fatigued driving is akin to drunk driving, it affects our brain so much. "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says over 55,000 accidents happen each year due to fatigued driving, and they say most of those could be prevented just by getting a good night's sleep." (source)

When you're exhausted you cannot think, react, calculate, decide or do many other cognitive functions as well as when you're fresh. Add to the normal exhaustion that most parents feel, an extra job or two and you've got a fatigue permeating society that affects overall performance.

Let's say that you're on the road and you encounter a tired cop, a weary EMT, a fatigued transit conductor, a tired delivery driver, an exhausted bus driver. When people in jobs that affect others are tired, they make mistakes. Their mistakes affect others. They may have a harder time handling tension, stress, anger, or irritations that normally would not affect them.

It is one invisible way that society comes apart: depressed economy leads to overwork leads to fatigue that leads to mistakes that turn violent or deadly. It is one of the threads that stresses a society and overwork and fatigue pulls the thread apart from the seams. We're all feeling that stress and societal disintegration. We can't see fatigue, but we see its effects in reduced productivity and high exhaustion rates. Mistakes soon appear, then more and then even more. A wrongly filled out prescription, stepping on the gas instead of the brake, inattentive crossing guard... Think about it. Think about the number of people you depend on each day to make decisions that directly and indirectly affect you and your family. They may be in fact working three jobs and operating on 3 hours' sleep.

When the Tribulation arrives, people left behind will encounter an already angry, discontent fatigued population ever vying for resources that are becoming scarcer by the day. It will get ugly fast.

I know it is hard now for many of you. But Jesus knows the importance of rest. When He sent the Apostles out on mission, and they returned to report to Jesus of their labors,

"And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves." (Mark 6:31-32).

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep." (Psalm 127:1-2)

Our permanent rest is coming soon. Until then, I entreat in as loving a fashion as I can for us all to make wise decisions for yourself and your family that will allow you all some down time, as well as quiet time to worship Him. I hope you all have a good, and restful, weekend.

1 comment:

  1. So many directions to go with this post....Former football coaching legend Vince Lombardi of the Packers had a well known saying; "Fatigue makes cowards of us all". Fear is the opposite of faith, faith is required to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) We fear because we look at the world and our own little world and see escalating chaos. Impending financial meltdown, moral decay, dishonest leaders, famine, natural disasters, violence and more saturate the headlines everyday. Now pile on the spiritual warfare we encounter and even some of the most battle hardened believers can become weary. THANK GOD FOR HIS WORD!!!!John 14:27, Matt: 6 25-33, Matthew 11, 28-29, John 6:27. Assurance brings peace/rest and our assurance is in the Lord Jesus.
    Be careful not to avoid the steps we can take as well in order to battle fatigue. Proper nutrition, (avoid processed foods and simple sugars)exercise 3-5x a week, sleep....perfect the art of time management! You'd be amazed at how much time you may find after you eliminate garbage time.
    Here's a quick God was there personal story. I would frequently get 4 day weekends in the Army while stationed at Ft. Campbell, my girlfriend at the time lived in Fla (12-13hr trip)I would leave Thurs evening around 8pm and get in around 8-9am on Friday morning. I would take 75 south through Atlanta all the way into Gainesville before cutting east to my little town of Palatka. Well needless to say I'm a horrible night driver with being able to stay awake and this one particular night I hit Atlanta around 12:30am with the windows rolled down, the music blarring, and the eyes closing. The last I remember I was on the north side of town, suddenly I had blue lights in my rear view and as I got my wits about me I realized I was now on the south side of Atlanta. Once stopped the officer quickly asked had I been drinking, I of course was not and told him I must have been falling asleep; I explained that I was on a four day pass and trying to get to Fla. He said "you're not going to make it driving like that" and then he told me I was using all six lanes while going through metro-Atlanta on 75. YIKES! No doubt in my mind that the Lord kept me from dying that night. The officer had me follow him to the next gas station where he told me to get some rest.
    Even in our own foolishness He is there.

    God Bless

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