It is in the nature of a modern economy to push productivity up, whilst keeping salary costs competitively low. This means that, by default, we should expect working life to pressurize us to do more and more for less and less.
It may not be right, but it is the logical effect of the principles of modern economics, in which profit is the dominant measure, and in which human resources are treated as costs.
Modern economies also tend to settle at a balance where a person’s income is barely enough to cover routine costs. This means that the push for productivity is hard to resist, if one is to survive.
How can we defend ourselves?
Firstly, we can show a preparedness to move away from work that is emotionally punishing. The more people vote with their feet, the more the job market will have to take account of the need to make working conditions healthy.
Secondly, we can be creative in how we create space for ourselves at work. Where opportunities arise to take breaks, to relax and recover, and to adapt work to our personal preferences, we should take them.
Thirdly, employers can be more skilled at consulting staff, and adapting the workplace to the emotional needs of employees.
At work, am I stuck in a cycle of perpetual productivity demands? Am I constantly being asked to do more and more with less and less?
Have I developed an ability to walk away from work that fails to help me lead a balanced life? Am I prepared to say no to certain demands, and seek alternative work if necessary?
Have I trained myself to take good quality breaks? And have I done what I can to adapt my working environment to what works for me?
If I am in a position to employ others, have I done all I can to find out what environments and practices suit my staff?
In general, am I learning to say no to unhealthy work practices, and yes to healthy ones?
What adjustments could I make today, in order to be able to enjoy my work better?