06 February 2011

Express Free Market Principles - Phone in Sick

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Anxiety Culture

'Everything they told you is wrong. Working long hours in a depressing job is not in accord with the idea of a “free market”.

But phoning in sick is in accord...

The time has come for people to understand the true economics of sick days.

Phoning in sick is one of the purest expressions of free-market principles.

“Supply and demand” is a free-market cliché commonly spouted (but often misunderstood) by corporate leaders. “Demand” is defined in free-market theory as a demand made by a free, rational individual who is acting out of self-interest. But many “demands” – eg the demand for “status symbol” consumer goods – owe more to saturation advertising and social conformity than to rational, individual self-interest.

And what about the “demand” for jobs in the labour market? When someone is forced by financial necessity to take a low-paid menial job, are they making a free, rational, self-interested demand? Are they saying: “As a free, rational individual, I hereby express my demand to work in a shit job for appalling wages”. Obviously they are not.

In fact, most of our economic activities don’t appear to fit the free-market definition of rational, free, individual, self-interested demands. But there is one demand in our work-obsessed society that undoubtedly does appear rational, individual and self-interested – the demand for more leisure.

In order for “supply and demand” to function properly, demands must be expressed and registered in the marketplace. Unfortunately, employees are usually too afraid to express their demand for more leisure. And if they do express this demand, it tends to go unregistered (eg the boss simply ignores it). Therefore, people express andregister their demand for leisure in the only way open to them: they phone in sick.

Phoning in sick is the responsible way to participate in an economy which is unable to register demand for leisure in any other way. To describe it as “fraud” is stretching legal definitions to absurdity, for the following reasons:

i) A high proportion of employees suffer from work-related anxiety or depression – to a degree and frequency that would be regarded as symptomatic of clinical psychological disorder, even though it might not be acknowledged as “genuine sickness” by the employer (see Government Report A, right).

ii) Studies have shown that working long hours without sufficient breaks has a seriously detrimental effect on health – often before a person notices any outward symptoms of illness (see Government Report B, right).

If you won’t phone in sick because you suffer from a guilty conscience about “dishonesty”, we suggest the following: Imagine, vividly, how you feel at work on a typical Monday morning. That should make you feel queasy. By dictionary definition, “queasy” means ill. Therefore it’s your duty to phone in sick. If you don’t feel queasy at the thought of Monday morning, then by definition you are mentally ill – you might want to consider spending a few years in a nursing home.

Or, to put it another way: prevention is better than cure, so phone in sick before you get ill.

Government Report A

According to a report commissioned in the 90s by the Department of Health, one in seven adults suffers from a psychological disorder. The most common neurosis is a mixed anxiety and depressive disorder, affecting 7.1% of people. The symptoms reported (all indicators of varying degrees of mental illness) were: fatigue, irritability, worry, anxiety, obsessions, depression, sleep problems, lack of concentration, forgetfulness, phobias and unexplained aches or pains brought on by stress. (Source: The Independent, 15/12/1994)

Government Report B

Another study by the Department of Health (“Mental Health and Stress in the Workplace”) found that people working over 48 hours per week have double the risk of coronary heart disease. (Reported on The Money Programme, BBC2, 11/2/1996).'

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