Friday, May 18, 2007

Late Industrialization - The Brain Drain

As I move through my day at work, I notice that the most common direction I end up heading is the coffee machine (yep, its instant). There are always people crowded around to grab a fresh cup of unimaginative jo. Behind the coffee machine is a food vending machine that has two full sections full of Red Bull cans. These apparently sell quite well as they represent 20% of the “food” inventory. Next to the food vending maching are two soda machines, depending on if you want a 12 oz can or a 20 oz bottle. By the end of the week the only soda left for purchase are the caffeine free varities, all the “good stuff” having been consumed during late afternoon “crunch” meetings.

My company also places a high emphasis on exceeding your weekly hours expectation. Although we are not a law firm and thus do not have billable hours, the expectation is that with more employees working longer the company can accomplish more and achieve greater results. Performance rewards target those employees who show a high level of “commitment” by working 50-60 plus hours a week. For those of us mavericks who work the amount of hours that our salary is based upon, there is reoccuring pressure to “get the numbers up,” lest your commitment be questioned.

So my question is, if companies rely on coffee, red bull, and extended employee hours to achieve high performance, are we really creating an intelligent and sustainable system or seeking short term gains with long term negative consequences such as burnout, stress disorders, etc? Indeed, just as coal laborers suffer for the remainder of their lives due to the havoc they wreaked on their bodies, might also folks with a “desk job” suffer mental degradation due to the overuse of their minds. Depression and anxiety related disorders are on the rise through the US and Europe, forgetfulness and attention disorders no longer seem relegated to the occasional individual, but rather seem to have become an almost universal malady.

Imagine a ghetto of people who’s brains had been “used up” in order to feed the machine of our late industrialized society. Intelligent and highly educated people sitting around with brains that were many years older than their bodies, taking medication for chemical imbalances that cause anxiety and depression. All because we forgot that the brain is not only a tool, it is an organic part of our entire body. Abuse the tool and the person suffers. Not to mention that exclusive focus on one’s mental processes makes little to no room for other types of perception, such as emotions, intuition, and spiritual awareness. The question is, how does one get unplugged from the machine, or is this even possible?


sonja said...

I believe we call those ghettos, "nursing homes."

Tara said...

It's possible, but expect a significant pay cut. :)