Extended working hours in times of covid-19 fear or power

The pandemic has destabilized us to the point of acting apprehensive about hiding our fear of death

  • 25/06/2020
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Extended working hours in times of covid-19 fear or power
Extended working hours in times of covid-19 fear or power

As Marx would say, work dignifies, for both women and men. On his side, Freud said that a healthy, mature, and integrated person is capable of loving and working. To love as a necessity of the people where it projects its affections and from which it receives value and appreciation, and work as the possibility of modifying reality and creating it.

On the other hand, from public policy, the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2011 in Geneva, raised the need to reconcile work with family life. From that moment, we begin to look at the harmful effects of these areas from a gender perspective. Currently, the contingency for covid-19 has accelerated this conciliation in an invasive way, evidencing the omission of philosophical perspectives and public policy regarding the labor sphere, brutally impacting all sectors and particularly the industries where a higher number of women are employed. 

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On February 11, I read an article that referenced a study carried out by Citrix, highlighting an epidemic caused by work stress in Mexico. The WHO included professional burnout as a work-related illness effective under the rule of NOM -035 in 2019 to prevent psychosocial risks in the workplace. This situation speaks of an urgent matter that needs attention, even more so when the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) registers 75% of workers who suffer fatigue from work stress. Those of us who work on these issues know that this figure will translate quickly into licenses and absences from work, somatization, or the inability of professionals to carry out their activities. And depending on the level of burnout, a person can take up to a year to recover. What we have seen in the contingency are lengthy working hours that go from 8 to 12 hours and more. The institutions show total timelessness, and their motto is "urgent," which seems to be more like an unplanned work, impacting and wearing people out. It degrades them as it leaves them feeling frustrated, incompetent, and compulsive, "I feel so inefficient." "As much as I work or skip my meals, I never finish." "There is always work pending." "I feel like if they don't see me connected, they'll think I'm not working, and I don't want to be fired." This anguish linked to surprisingly integrating the workplace, family, and personal spaces has been overwhelming.

Private space invasion

Suddenly, our house became the office, the school, the recreation space, the place where I prepare all the meals, the couple's space, the therapeutic area, and the "hospital" for those families who had a positive patient. To which we have to add at least three to four hours more to their daily workday to follow the care protocol and not get infected.

And then, it seems that privacy, time and space disappeared with the home office or work at home integrating everything in one place. Invading family spaces, having to urgently learn Zoom and new technologies and platforms existing to be able to "continue working" in all areas, except in contact with what we feel and this invasion of privacy generates.

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Fear and pain to death

Women's stereotypes and roles have represented the unfolding of all these activities, becoming teachers if they have young children. They have to be wives, partners, professionals, cooks, nurses, domestic workers. In many cases, the breadwinners, they are also the ones who go out to make the necessary purchases. Culturally they have always done it; only now doing it at the same time has been quite a venture, leading to overwhelming fatigue, emotionally and labor-consuming.

Finally, on a more unconscious level behind these schedules, the anguish, pain, and fear of death could be hiding as a defense mechanism that we can observe through control, apprehension, and subordination to these schedules. We cannot rule out the exercise of authoritarian power in a more rational way. Perhaps a labor link connection is established from the anxiety caused by not being able to control the "virus," "life," "the government." So I comply with the schedules by thinking, "yes, I can control it," is a way of not contacting our fragility. A method of "clinging to life" maniacally and compulsively. Leaving aside the creativity and dignity of men and women to modify and create their reality.

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* Norma G. Escamilla Barrientos has a degree in pedagogy from the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature at UNAM and a master's degree in psychoanalytic psychotherapy from Centro Eleia, A.C.


Traducción. Valentina K. Yanes