It’s official: working long hours can kill. According to a study by researchers at Harvard and Stanford, “long work hours increased mortality by nearly 20 percent.” The study also showed that “high job demands raised the odds of a physician-diagnosed illness by 35 percent.”
This will be of no surprise to many. The Japanese even have a word for it: Karoshi (literally meaning “death by overwork” – not the best way to go, I’m sure).
Someone who understood that the stress wasn’t worth it was Catherine Salway, a former Brand Director working for Richard Branson. Catherine quit the Virgin empire to set up an alcohol-free bar in Notting Hill, London, named Redemption (aptly enough). She told British newspaper The Telegraph:
“I was two stone overweight, I drank far too much and my moods were up and down, oscillating between stressed and depressed,” she says. “I was cash-rich but time-poor, rarely seeing my family and friends, eating and drinking far too much.”
August: everyone’s favourite month for surveys (can’t think why). Coming hot on the heels of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist, EIU’s Global Liveability Ranking and ECA International’s Cost of Living survey is the Expat Insider survey from international expat network InterNations.
The InterNations survey polled 14,400 expats in 195 countries on their quality of living, across various categories. South American country Ecuador came top overall for quality of life, followed by Mexico, Malta and Southeast Asian powerhouse Singapore:
Kuwait finished bottom, followed by Greece, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Curiously, Ecuador has just been described in less than favourable terms by Bloomberg Business: Everything Is Going Wrong In Ecuador.
In other categories, Myanmar in Southeast Asia was named the most welcoming country:
Nordic countries meanwhile came out top of in terms of work-life balance and working hours. Sweden showed the best work-life balance, while the shortest work week was in Norway (just 40.4 hours). The longest work works were reported to be in African countries: Uganda (50.8 hours) and Nigeria (49.9 hours).
UK newspaper The Independent has highlighted the top 10 worst places in the world to live in, the least jolly part of the EIU’s Global Liveability Ranking 2015 announced recently:
They won’t be terrible for everyone, of course; much depends on one’s individual context. But if you do find yourself considering a move to an unstable environment (with dangers like social unrest, civil crime or even terrorism), or if you’re an employer assigning staff to a difficult location, you might want to first read the words of Stephen Haynes, Head of Wellbeing at the British Council.
Over a series of posts on LinkedIn, he talks about how organisations can better understand and manage the wellbeing of staff posted to “fragile and high risk locations” – locations like Damascus and Tripoli cited in the EIU report:
The world’s biggest retailer Amazon came under scrutiny recently over alleged “bruising” work practices, sparking a major debate over the company, tech industry and workers rights generally:
Anyone itching to work for a tech giant and monitoring the Amazon furore might now be re-considering, Or they might not be. What is clear is that there is a difference between what some companies claim they offer and what they really offer, and that candidates should be aware of this before signing on the dotted line.
To get a more complete picture, here are 5 ways to research a prospective employer. None of these are illegal or even wrong. It boils down to common sense.
- Go to social media in the first instance and look up the employer’s name on Twitter (http://search.twitter.com/), Quora, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, online forums and other social platforms. It’s not for their official brand presence; it’s for authentic external commentary around the company – from the media, customers, employees and others. As shown in the above tweets, there is mixed sentiment around Amazon, with some attacking its work culture and others rallying to its defence (though important to recognise also that this case is unique, being a reputation crisis).
- Similarly, go to the comments sections of websites – they sometimes reveal insights into and anecdotes of work culture shared by present and former employees (some hiding behind an avatar).
- Google the hiring manager and look them up on Twitter and LinkedIn (they will almost certainly have a LinkedIn profile). Focus on their engagement or conversations with other people, as this will reveal their character. Keep in mind that they might also investigate your social profile if you are shortlisted for a position.
- Go to Glassdoor for anonymous reviews of companies posted by former employees. Be wary that there might be a degree of manipulation going on in some cases (I can’t confirm this; it just seems that way).
- Talk to people! Reach out to an existing or former employee for their perspective on working for the employer. You can now send anyone on Twitter a private message, and LinkedIn is also useful for this purpose.
Learning a foreign language can be tough. I should know; I’ve been doing it on and off all my life, and I’m far from a natural linguist. But it’s also incredibly important – something that employers recognise all too well. They are concerned about the fall in foreign language GCSE and A Level entries in the UK:
Bottom line: foreign language skills are very high valued in the global – and intensely competitive – jobs market. Knowing another language will give you a massive competitive advantage. It ain’t all English. I would even put speaking a second language ahead of acquiring a degree. In other words, forego university, and move abroad to hone your foreign language skills.
A quick example: you will not succeed in China, the world’s biggest economy, without knowing some Mandarin (it’s often a prerequisite for landing a job there). And even if you don’t fancy a move to China, you might need to speak the lingo anyway, with Chinese companies becoming increasingly visible on the world stage, from Huawei to Lenovo.