香山リカのココロの万華鏡:仕事切り上げる勇気も /東京

June 14, 2015(Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Have the courage to leave work early
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:仕事切り上げる勇気も /東京

I am dispatched from the hospital where I work to a number of companies to check on the health of their employees. In accordance with the Industrial Safety and Health Act, I do as many interviews with employees working over 80 or more hours of overtime a month as I can.

If long work hours and abnormal living habits go on for a long time, they are said to lead to a buildup of exhaustion, higher risk of depression and problems with the heart or blood vessels in the brain. With that in mind, I conduct my interviews and offer lifestyle guidance, but sometimes I feel powerless. A typical conversation with an employee goes like:

"Are you tired?"

"I'm tired."

"Do you eat meals regularly?"

"I always eat dinner late at night."

"Do you play any sports on your days off?"

"I don't. I just sleep."

Often, it ends with me asking, "Can you do anything to change your way of working?" and them saying, "That would be difficult."

Lately, perhaps because of the improved economy, many people say their workloads have increased. Companies may be happy with this, but not necessarily employees. Some men tell me that due to their long work hours, they cannot help with house chores or child-raising and are on bad terms with their wives.

From Japan's period of rapid economic growth through to its bubble period, many people in Japan worked overtime until late at night, believing a myth that "the harder you work, the happier you and your family and society will be." However, this led to a sharp increase in the number of suicides and depressed patients, a fallen birthrate and a lack of international competitiveness. Everyone lost out, yet once again we might be on the cusp of entering an overworking society.

I often tell companies' personnel divisions, "It's good that employees are working, but if they fall ill, take sick leave or quit, that is a big blow to the firm, right? Instead, I think it will benefit the company and them to let them take time off, have a good family life, and work with their body and mind at peak condition."

An upturn in the economy is a wonderful thing, but if more work brings better company results, hardworking people will always want to push themselves harder, putting aside their exhaustion and working until late at night.

However, studies show that that will not make you or your family happy. It is necessary to have the courage to end your day's work while you still have energy left.

(Answers by Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)
毎日新聞 2015年06月09日 地方版

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