It’s Not Okay to Work Yourself to Death

The other day I saw this article from the New York Times:

In Busy Silicon Valley, Protein Powder Is in Demand

Here’s a quote:

Boom times in Silicon Valley call for hard work, and hard work — at least in technology land — means that coders, engineers and venture capitalists are turning to liquid meals…While athletes and dieters have been drinking their dinner for years, Silicon Valley’s workers are now increasingly chugging their meals, too, so they can more quickly get back to their computer work.

This is absolutely ridiculous. If a person is working so hard that they can’t take a break, then they need a different job. If a person does not want to take a break, then they need to have breaks forced on them for their own good, and for the good of the rest of us.

I’ve been working in the tech industry since 2003, and as a salaried employee, at times there is pressure to work large amounts of overtime. When I worked remotely for a company in Silicon Valley, I would have to remind my supervisors and coworkers that while they were working on national holidays, I was not. The picture many people have of the working culture in Silicon Valley is one of foosball tables and being allowed to bring a dog to work everyday. What I found, instead, is a culture of workaholics who are either chasing an elusive fortune, or who are not cognizant of the fact their lives no longer belong to them, but to the company. As just about everyone who is not an hourly worker knows, there is usually no overtime pay for salaried positions. It’s not enough for companies to rent out a person’s life for 40 hours a week. They want free labor, as well.

It’s a travesty that this is the case. Past generations fought hard for fair pay and worker protections, including the forty-hour work week and breaks during a shift, that have steadily been eroded as labor unions have lost their influence. People died for these rights, at the hands of thugs hired by their employers, and from the U.S. military. They died for all of us, and the worst part about this situation is that modern-day workers have gone into arrangements where more and more of their time, for free, is ceded to their employers voluntarily.

This new fad of protein shakes replacing meals is but a small symptom of the larger problem of American workers not being fairly compensated for their labor. The people mentioned in this article should not be praised for their work ethic. They should be pitied. And the companies that employ them should be ashamed that they are, or are allowing, their talent to be exploited in such a way.