Succumbing to stress at work? We are now meant to suffer in silence | Tim Adams

Jhat indelible rogue public service quote – “Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters” – still making the rounds on the internet two years after it was first posted (and deleted) from the @UKCivilService account. The original post followed revelations about Dominic Cummings and Barnard Castle, but there has hardly been a day since that he hasn’t felt vindicated. A fan sitewith 32,000 subscribers, is dedicated to reposting it twice a day, just to be sure.

The tweet – no one has discovered the source – seemed relevant to this recent survey which showed rising levels of stress among MPs’ staff, with three quarters suggesting their role was “emotionally draining” and a third describing it as “heartbreaking “. These findings, which came as the government announced its blunt proposal to eliminate public service jobs, reminded me of a correlation I discovered while researching a mental health story: that the number working days lost to “stress-related illnesses” in the UK – around 17 million in 2021 – closely matched the number of days lost to strikes each year in the first half of the 1980s. , as Margaret Thatcher conceived, collective workplace grievances were effectively privatized and externalized to the individual.

Data never sleeps

Hazel Sutherland of the National Portrait Gallery watches the film David at the gallery in 2004.
Hazel Sutherland of the National Portrait Gallery watches the film David at the gallery in 2004. Photograph: Adam Butler/AP

The most peaceful sleep I have ever observed is that of David Beckham in the Sam Taylor-Johnson film, David, of the footballer after training in Madrid in 2004. The softly lit film lasted almost two hours, during which Beckham, at the height of his glory, hardly moved. Most of the time, there seemed to be a slight smile on his lips. Her hair never threatened the headboard. Watching this film, it was hard not to imagine what the little mortal’s sleep would be like — legs kicking, teeth grinding — on the wall of an art gallery.

Most of us never see ourselves asleep and are happy that it continues. A new Google function, however, promises to analyze how suitable our nights are – or not. As well as collecting data on heart rhythms and breathing patterns, the app will also use “cough and snore monitoring” which could alert us upon waking to “underlying pathologies”. Sweet dreams.

Compassion for cows

two cows
What does life look like from their point of view? Photograph: Jason Batterham 2/Alamy

Beef and dairy companies have long tried to get us to imagine their products in the abstract. The recent appetite for livestock books and movies makes this more difficult to achieve. There was Temple Grandin’s campaign to make us see the world as a cow might see it, in order to improve livestock care. “We have to give these animals a decent life and we have to give them a painless death. We owe respect to animals.

This belief was at the heart of Cotswold farmer Rosamund Young’s surprise bestseller The secret life of cows, which Alan Bennett has credited with “changing the way I see the world”. This feeling will have been shared by all those who have been fascinated, like me, by Andrea Arnold’s extraordinary documentary, Cowbased on several years of filming the life of a single dairy animal in Kent.

A scramble of other books appeared; the latest, that of Roger Morgan-Grenville Take stock, advocates much less intensive farming methods. The books and films remind us that empathy is a first step in behavior change. Once you know cows have best friends, it’s much easier to resist the herd instinct that demands factory farming.

Tim Adams is an Observer columnist

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