Puzzling Karoshi Phenomenon

Puzzling Karoshi Phenomenon

Japan is today a leading industrial nation that plays in the big league along with the world's most industrialized countries. Yet this has come at a price. The Japanese work environment has increasingly become so intense that the word Karoshi has come into Japan's national dictionary. In the 1970s, the word Karoshi was first invented. When translated literally, Karoshi simply means ‘death by overwork'. In reality, Karoshi represents the idea of death by overwork or what may be referred to as a sudden-death occupational mortality.

Some major medical causes of this puzzling phenomenon are stroke and heart attacks due to stress, long work hours or a starvation diet. At times, Karoshi may also involve a situation where employees commit suicide as a result of overwork. The first case of Karoshi was in 1969. Then, a 29-year-old man, who worked in Japan's largest newspaper's shipping department, died after suffering a sudden heart attack.

By 1978, there was a consistent but disturbing pattern of people developing heart failure and fatal strokes that could be traced directly to overwork. This attracted the attention of both scholars and government agencies for the first time. By 1982, the term Karoshi came into popular public usage. Indeed, a book dealing with the novel issue was first published that year.

In time, the term Karoshi quickly emerged to become part of the Japanese public life. This was especially so in the mid-1980s at the time of the famous ‘bubble economy.' At this time, several high-ranking corporate executives who were in their prime years suffered the ravages of sudden death without ever showing any previous signs of illness. Japanese officials now recognized the Karoshi phenomenon as a significant menace afflicting people in the workforce. This prompted Japan's ministry of Labour to publish consistent statistics on Karoshi beginning in 1987.

These measures were aimed at helping to decrease the number of deaths resulting from Karoshi, but the effect was to take some time before anything positive came out. Even as recently as July 2013, yet another employee was reported to have died from this sad phenomenon. Miwa Sado, the 31-year-old woman, who was a journalist, died straight from heart failure. The woman had logged in a startling 158 hours of overtime, in a single month, at his employer's NHK news network. It was not until October 2017 that Sado's death was officially registered by the government as a classic Karoshi case.

Meanwhile, around the same time, a 24-year-old worker of the Japanese advertising company, Dentsu, tragically jumped to her death from a balcony in the company dorm room. She had lived in this dormitory, working 100-hours in a month. This apparently led her to commit suicide. A month after the horrible incident, Tadashi Ishii, the Dentsu CEO and president, was forced to resign for this embarrassing culpability.

Work Culture

The concept of karoshi may well be traced back to the days of World war II. At that time, when the country was freshly war-torn, Japanese Premier, Shigeru Yoshida, made it a top priority to build Japan's tattered economy. As part of this initiative, the government prompted the major corporations to give their workers life-long job security as long as these proved to be loyal to the hilt.

Despite the fact that the big plan was meant to boost the Japanese economy, the Japanese workers were compelled to give up on their work-life balance in order to achieve this. Yes, the plan worked to catapult Japan into a leading industrialized state but all these came at a huge price. Within just a decade of the commencement of the government's official ‘work-to-death' policy, many cases of Karoshi started to happen. Many workers were apparently ready to sacrifice their family and personal time to make a good impression with the bosses and boost loyalty ties with their employers. They wanted to keep their jobs at any cost. It was not long before this situation started taking a toll on the Japanese workers who wanted to build the national economy at any cost.

Most of these workers regularly spent long hours in the office, suffering from sleep deprivation. The burden of meeting the demands of the employers started taking a toll on them, prompting many to get into suicide. Many others may not have died, but they suffered the ravages of stroke and heart attack. In time, the fatalities were clearly recognized as job-relate cases. The phenomenon, overtime, came to be labelled as ‘occupation sudden-death'.

The cult of Superwomen deters women in business

The cult of Superwomen deters women in business

Baroness Gabby Bertin, a member of Theresa May's new task force to encourage women in their careers, said that the cult of superwomen "having it all" is dissuading women from starting their own businesses. She said it is time to "be honest" about "how challenging' it is to be successful in a career while having children.

She added: "All the talk of superwomen having it all is not very helpful to most women in this country."

The conservative peer was a key aide to David Cameron during his time in Opposition and as Prime Minister. Bertin is part of a group of senior women who have been appointed to ensure all policy developed by the Government considers the impact on women and strives to increase their role in politics, business and society as a whole.

Lady Bertin criticized the philosophy of "lean in" which urges women to be more proactive at seizing career opportunitinies. "‘Leaning in' is all very well if you are a highly-paid executive with wraparound childcare, but less so if you are a single parent or if both of you work very long hours and there is a hard stop for nursery pick-up," she said. "It also should not be a crime against your career to want to see your children awake during the week."

The peer also criticized programmes like Peppa Pig for reinforcing gender stereotypes that hold women back. "Deeply ingrained gender stereotypes starts early on," she said. ‘It can still subconsciously drive women and men down different paths."

Lady Bertin also addressed the challenges working fathers face and called for the "stamping out of a macho culture that sniggers behind its hand at shared parental leave or dads playing a bigger role."

The Government's new task force strives to ensure all policy developed by the Government considers the impact on women and tries to increase their role in politics, business and society. Made up of a committee of peers, MPs and policy experts, the group is chaired by Nikki Da Costa, the head of legislative affairs at N010.

Helen Rose, COO of TSB and one of the most senior women in the UK's retail banking sector, has tried for many years to get more senior women in business. As a result, she is encouraging other senior women in business to share their stories to encourage women to make it to the top.

Rose meets with groups of women from across the business to share tips to make it in the business world. "I tell them the story of when I was offered the COO job at TSB and was given 24 hours to make up my mind," she said. "You have to just say yes and think later about how to make it work. Often women don't get as far as saying yes, because they've already thought about what would be difficult. Women need to be bolder, because if you're not, you'll find that one of your peers - often of the male variety - beats you to the top."

Rose climbed to the top despite working in a male-dominated environment. She started her career as an accountant and then became an auditor. "I was told early on in my career that it was a good idea for women to move into tax, as it was less confrontational!" Despite the difficulties, Rose stood her ground. "That didn't resonate with me, as I believe women can be good at resolving confrontations."

She launched her career in senior finances roles in retail and worked in the industry over 15 years - at Dixons, Safeway and Forte. Although the retail industry usually attracts more women, at Forte, Rose was the only woman out of all the senior staff worldwide. "There was a lot of locker-room banter. In that situation, it's hard to bring your whole self to work."

Things changed when she joined what was there Lloyds TSB in 2005 where two of her three bosses were actually women. "Everyone was very generous and welcoming, but there was still a traditional, paternalistic culture," says Rose. "One of my direct reports said to me: ‘I haven't offered Jo the promotion because she's pregnant and I don't want to put more pressure on her.' And I said, ‘Well, isn't that Jo's choice?'"

A new opportunity opened up for Rose and her team to create the kind of company they wanted when TSB separated from Lloyds after the banking crisis. "Building a bank from scratch was incredibly complex, but it was great to write our own mission statement and think about what we wanted our values to be," she said.

"From the very beginning we built a much more gender-balanced team - 37% of our senior managers were women. Now we're up to 42% and we're aiming for 45-55%." Thanks to this change, Rose said "you're much more able to be relaxed, be yourself and bring all of your talents to work."

Rose criticised the tag of "superwoman" and said it's possible to reach the top without being one. "I personally don't like that tag, as it puts women off. We all face challenges; we just need to be more honest and open about how we ‘made it'."

Digital addiction is similar to substance abuse

Digital addiction is similar to substance abuse

Is digital addiction really a thing or are we talking about a mere dependence? For instance, as Internet is medium rather than an activity, it's more difficult to pin down a quantifiable, negative effect of Internet use. If you find you have a compulsive need to use your digital devices and to be online to the point where it is interfering with your life and keeps you from engaging in social activities or doing things you are meant to do, that's when this digital dependence becomes an addiction.

Whether you can't live without your phone, without interacting on social media or Internet in general, these are all categorised under the umbrella of digital addiction.

Phone addiction is a syndrome where users overuse their smartphones to the extent where it has a negative impact on their daily lives. Therapist Paul Hokemeyer said that this syndrome can be a manifestation of underlying behavioural health and personality issues. Some of these underlying pathologies include depression, anxiety and a socially challenged personality. As they are affected by these issues, they rely on their phones to find some comfort.

If you feel the need to document every aspect of your life on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, then you are probably addicted to social media. Although there is no medical recognition of this addiction, recent studies have proved that overusing Facebook can decrease feelings of satisfaction and happiness.

Meanwhile, Internet addiction is defined as an impulse control disorder, which is also known as pathological internet use. People who are affected by this issue spend so much time online that they find it hard to differentiate between the virtual world and reality. This pathology increases the chances of overspending money online.

Before the days of smartphones and laptops, in 1997, psychologists were already testing the "addictive potential" of the World Wide Web. Even in its infant years, people who used the Net were already showing symptoms that manifest themselves with other addictions: trouble at work, social isolation, and the inability to cut back. What resulted so addictive about the Internet is the feeling of connectedness to something, rather than to an activity that could be accomplished via that medium.

Internet addiction started to be recognised as a real problem towards 2008, when The American Journal of Psychiatry published an editorial requesting the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) - also known as the bible of psychiatry - includes Internet Addiction.

Psychiatrist Jerald Block said that a decade of research had proven that the 1997 study was right in suspecting the Internet could inspired the same patterns of excessive usage, withdrawal, tolerance, and negative symptoms associated with substance abuse.

Black concluded, "Internet addiction is resistant to treatment, entails significant risks, and has high relapse rates." Accordingly, Internet addiction is a pathology that needs treatment just like any other.

Nowadays, Internet is more widely believed to foster addictive behaviours in its own right. One report from 2012, for instance, studied nearly twelve thousand adolescents in eleven European countries and found that 4.4% suffered from what the authors named "pathological Internet use" or used the internet in a way that had a negative impact on the subjects' health and life.

When you spend too much time online and that interferes with your social and professional activities, Internet use could cause mental distress and inability to function associated with pathological gambling. Most of the surveyed adolescents who abused Internet also suffered from other psychological problems including depression, anxiety, A.D.H.D., and O.C.D.

There was not enough data to include Internet addiction on the list of officially recognized behavioural addictions in DSM-V. The landscape might change as the number of problematic use of Internet has been rising in recent years.

Marc Potenza, a psychiatrist at Yale and the director of the school's Program for Research on Impulsivity and Impulse Control Disorders, said Internet can be addictive as a medium. "I think there are people who find it very difficult to tolerate time without using digital technologies like smartphones or other ways of connecting via the Internet," he said. It's the feeling of connectivity or the lack of it what makes constitutes a problem.

A recent study by San Francisco State University concluded that digital addiction increases loneliness, anxiety and depression. It also found that smartphone use can be similar to other types of substance use.

The worst money lies people tell

The worst money lies people tell

Money is not a particularly easy subject to talk about. When they do, they either feel uncomfortable or they lie about who much money they make, among others. We tend to lie ourselves about how much debt we are shacked to, and even how much money we are going to need for the future. There is great speculations about how to spend money and sometimes we lie to ourselves to feel better about our purchases.

The rule to all of this is that there is no rule at all. There's smart spending and then there are no rules that work for everyone. You don't have to sacrifice your avocado toast to buy a house - like Australian real estate mogul Tim Gurner advised young people - as long as you don't spend too much money on avocado toast regularly.

You can thrive financially by finding out what works for you. You may spend more money on smoothies, but then you ride a bicycle to work and you save money on transport. Therefore, that balances it out. Sometimes we just need to treat ourselves to continue working hard and saving on other things. The key is to not overdo it. Investing in the latest model of a MacBook might help you make more money as a freelancer, for instance. If you went out for breakfast, don't go out for dinner, unless you are on holidays, and then all bets are off.

The key to it all is that you need to balance it out. You can buy anything you want as long as you don't buy everything you want. You need to be selective and figure out what you really want, really need, and can afford without jeopardizing your ability to buy a house or having financial stability.

Here are some popular money lies people:

"Avoid credit cards"

Although this rule applies to people who can't control themselves and they spend too much money when there is not limit and then find themselves in huge debts, it doesn't mean that credit cards are the root of all evil. On the contrary, using credit cards wisely can help you to budget yourself better, help your peace of mind and to be at ease. Besides, the more you use your credit cards - for instance, when you are travelling - the more rewards you can claim. It is really up to how you function.

"You need a great deal of money to start investing"

There are many options out there for you to start investing with as little as $5. You don't need to have huge savings to start investing. It's only a matter of participating in some scheme that will pay off later on. Remember that small amounts that mean nothing to you now, overtime they can turn into huge investments.

You need to spend money to make money

This maxim depends on you go about it. Sometimes investing in business can lead to more money, but you can't always apply it to your personal life. If you don't need something, then you need to save it. There are other times, however, when you need to invest in a project or an instrument to make money.

Then there are the lies we tell ourselves:

"I'll have plenty of time to save money later"

It's not easy to save money. There's no instant gratification and it means you are sacrificing other things you want now. What it comes down to is why should you deprive yourself of what you want now to prepare for an uncertain future. Millennials, in particular, usually get that feeling of uncertain future as they don't usually have job stability which deters them from saving in some cases. However, if you can put aside a small amount of money overtime and try not to think about it being there, it can really pay off and it works easing your mind. It's important to have some backup this day and age.

"I can afford it"

You work hard and you feel like you deserve that very expensive object that you don't really need. You tell yourself that it might be a sacrifice and you will be low on money for quite a while but it will be all worth it. Then after you make that initial down payment and you commit to a monthly payment, you crunch the numbers and realize that this purchase is going to take a toll in your finances. You tell yourself you are going to save money on other things, but suddenly this new toy becomes your life and you have no money to purchase anything else, or pay what you really need to be paying.