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Take your leave, clock out at five, work will still be there tomorrow

By Judith Mukiri Mwobobia | June 1st 2021

Siaya County Assembly orderly overwhelmed during a debate in the chambers.[Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Like clockwork, she would wake up at 4’oclock every morning to head to Marikiti, the farmer’s market in downtown Nairobi to purchase her day’s stock. Then as the estate awoke, you would find Rose seated beside her wares, already set up in the shopping centre.

She was as much a part of Savannah Estate as the public primary school where all the neighbourhood children went. A vivacious and jolly woman, she was the heart and soul of the market and was known to buy extra stock of bananas which she would hand to those she deemed ‘hungry-looking. And when one day at noon she collapsed in the market and immediately lost consciousness, the neighbourhood would come to a standstill.

She would die a day later. Reason? Cardiac arrest. Unbeknownst to many, she had been asked by her doctor to slow down because her heart was not in the best shape.

Rose is many Kenyans; the hardest worker in any room. But If the latest report on the state of work released by the World Health Organisation and the International Labour Organisation is to be believed, many of us, like Rose are courting death with our overdone industriousness.

The report further showed that in a space of six years, with the specific cause being long working hours, the number of deaths from heart ailments rose by 42 per cent and from stroke by 19 per cent. Men, the middle-aged and older workers were found to be the most affected.

And while you may think this couldn’t be Kenya, you would be wrong, heart diseases are on the rise here too. We may need more studies to ascertain the exact numbers caused by long working hours but according to data by WHO, in 2018, 7,082 Kenyans reportedly died from strokes. And the numbers are soaring.

The WHO study would conclusively recommend 35 to 40 hours a week as the most ideal and further warned that working 55 hours or more a week (11 hours a day) increased one’s chances of suffering a stroke by 35 per cent. This is you if you get into work at 8 am and leave at 7pm.

But again, most of us know a lot of things, but putting them into practice is another issue altogether. You know that if you were to collapse in the office one day from a heart attack, you would be rushed to the hospital and then the ever efficient human resources department would find someone to do your job. There are always three or four people who can seamlessly replace you.

Sad but true. You need to appreciate that just like any other machine, your body needs some rest and it undergoes wear and tear. And with the work and daily life stresses your body goes through every single day, you can’t afford not to find an outlet. If you don’t, your body will fail you one day. You do not need to be the first in the office and the last out every day to prove commitment to your work.

In fact, you could just be an incompetent hard worker. If you can’t finish the work you are supposed to do in the allotted time, it could be that your skills are wanting or you lack proper time management skills. Bottom line is, you need to find time for non-work activities that refresh your body if you want to keep your ticker healthy for longer.

Entrepreneurs also need to disregard the toxic hustle culture. This is where you work and work some more because it was drummed into us that being a workaholic translates to success. That isn’t always so. Hard work pays but it isn’t so literal. If it was, the slums would be filled with millionaires, and Africa would be an economic giant. You can be a smart worker instead. Focus on the work at hand in the time you need to then give the other facets of your life some attention too. Like your spouse and children.

Or your hobbies and interests.  Don’t end up being one of the statistics in some study. Do your job well and also, be intentional about caring for your body; the machine you put to work every day. Additionally, take all your leave days and vacations where the agenda is to truly relax. Because when it is all said and done, do you really want the reason you went belly up was that you gave too much of your time to your employer?



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