David Posen’s fourth self-help book outlines changes to the modern office that have led to a workforce drowning under what he calls the Big Three stressors: volume, velocity, and abuse.
Corporate downsizing in the 1990s, Posen argues, coincided with increased emphasis on profits and share prices, leading many corporations to drastically increase their expectations of employees. Advances in technology, intended to free up time and increase productivity, have instead created conditions in which workers in an increasingly knowledge-based economy spend most of their lives tethered to electronic devices.
Posen forwards the idea that continuous rapid growth is simply unsustainable. Yet he notes the conditions that foster it have existed for so many years that most people believe the status quo is inevitable. These facts may not be new to the reader, but collecting them in one place, while emphasizing their physical and psychological effects on the average worker, paints a dramatic picture of a modern workforce under continual, increasing strain.
As a medical doctor, Posen is eminently qualified to discuss the physiology of stress. In a convivial tone, he addresses the reader directly, making an informed and reasoned case for decreased workloads, as well as more freedom from meetings, inflexible working hours, and “face time.” He also addresses work-life balance and emphasizes the need for proper rest.
Is Work Killing You? is a bit light on concrete suggestions for the common office worker. While the author floats a lot of ideas about the way things should be, he doesn’t offer much help for dealing with things as they are (save for a chapter at the end). In the current economic climate, workers may fear for their jobs if they follow Posen’s prescription and agitate for better conditions. Managers and executives looking for ways to change corporate culture have a great deal more to gain by reading this book, since they have the power to enact the changes Posen reasonably and rightly wants to see.