Think, for a second, about the old image of the successful employee. Think Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, with his oversize mobile phone and various famous quotes such as “lunch is for wimps” and his almost pathological need to be grafting all the while. Times – thankfully – have changed. The film Wall Street was in cinemas a quarter of a century ago – which is plenty of time for things to have moved on since.
It may not have been apparent to everyone who watched the film at the time that this character – rather than being presented as a paragon of the work ethic – was, in fact, largely satirical. Take that ‘lunch is for wimps’ quote, for instance. It doesn’t take a health professional to know that lunch – far from being simply for wimps – is essential for functioning well during the afternoon. Essentially, poor Gekko – due to his somewhat odd but very firmly held views – was actually hampering his own productivity, and doing himself no health favours in the process.
Gekko certainly sounded like a commercial Samurai with that bit of rhetoric – and as I’ve mentioned above, when you think about it, the quote doesn’t really stand up to any physiological analysis. Not only is it common knowledge that working through your lunch is more likely to hamper productivity than boost it – it’s also been found that regular breaks are important for focus and concentration.
And as a modern-day Samurai and quoter of ancient oriental warfare strategy books, Gekko should maybe have known that old (and true) adage about how an army marches on its stomach. (Skip lunch and feel the effects of your blood sugar dip, as well as likely negative effects on concentration.)
So, Gekko and his attitudes were all a long time ago in the 1980s. Also, we’re now into the second decade of the new millennium and Gekko really is a creature from another age. He’s probably instantly recognisable these days as someone with a less than healthy attitude to workplace wellbeing. And if Gekko were around now, no doubt he’d be interested in reading the news reports from a wee while ago about how a test for workaholics has now been developed.
This workplace wellbeing test – known as the Bergen Work Addiction Scale – is a very simple test to measure the likely extent to which someone is addicted to work. Not unlike tests devised for gambling and other addictions, it’s a series of short questions that form a simple diagnostic tool – however it’s best to note that if you spend a few minutes doing the questions, these tests are provided for informational purposes only – obviously if you have concerns about work addiction (or any other type of addiction) then it’s very important to speak to a health professional.
Companies seeking to maximise employee engagement and maximise workplace wellbeing will be likely to take notice of this new test and incorporate it into various HR policies. Another big change, of course, since Gekko’s day is that workplaces are far more employee-centred these days. The far higher prevalance of things like business health cover and employee assistance programmes mean that health is higher up the agenda than it was then.