Heigh Ho!

Back in January, I wrote briefly of Moritz Erhardt. He’s rarely far from my mind, if I’m honest.

Moritz was a 21-year-old intern at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London who, ten-and-a-half months after my haemorrhagic stroke, died after working three nights in a row. Early each morning, he would pop home for a quick shower while his taxi waited outside, before returning to the office. As a news report at the time wrote, “this procedure is so commonplace that it has a name: the magic roundabout.”

But let’s ruin a different childhood memory this time….

Just call me Grumpy. Or Strokey
What are you looking so happy about, you silly sods?

[Want a beautiful memory? Check out Nerd Bait‘s retelling of The Tale of The Little Mermaid with a bunch of talented people in attendance at Illicit Ink‘s Happily Never After as part of the Jura Unbound strand at the Edinburgh International Book Festival tomorrow.]

Something else that happened after my stroke was, Longsufferinggirlfriendoftheblogbeth and I moved to Edinburgh. We weren’t sure at all what the future would hold, and I remember walking past the Remploy storefront on Lothian Road. Remploy is “an organisation in the United Kingdom which provides employment placement services for disabled people.” They had a shit-ton of jobs posted in the window, and this seemed to bode well for the future.

On further examination, it seemed that pretty much all of the postings were for an identical job (jobs?) at the Amazon call centre in Edinburgh.

Thanks, The Onion!
“Amazon HR Working 100 Hours A Week To Address Employees’ Complaints”

I held off, and entered further rehabilitation instead. On 15 August, news in The New York Times suggested that this might have been a fortunate escape. Jodi Kantor’s and David Streitfeld’s article Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace ran with the summary “The company is conducting an experiment in how far it can push
white-collar workers to get them to achieve its ever-expanding ambitions.” And it made for brutal, Orwell-esque, reading.

"I need these letter-constructions to more pleasingly cleave to the conception of the behemoth, Sweetie."
Eric. Will Self wants a word.

Needless to say, the Times‘ article gave rise to quite the brouhaha. (Sorry, George.) As The Guardian notes, Jeff Bezos – Amazon founder and owner of rival news organisation the Washington Post – “went on the record with a statement to staff, saying the Amazon depicted in the article was not the workplace he recognised.” Bezos’ line was echoed by his new head of PR, Jay Carney – formerly the White House press secretary.

Interestingly, that particular Guardian article was more interested in framing the story as a clash of cultures highlighting the tensions between media and technology companies than critically evaluating statements like that of BuzzFeed founder, Jonah Peretti, to the effect that he doesn’t think it necessary to permit unionisation “if your employees [are] better paid and treated than elsewhere.”

Wapping?!?! GEDDIT???!!!
A Wapping great union-media bust-up

Perhaps it’s only to be expected that a writer for The Guardian should be more interested in the details of the journalistic take than the article itself.  Just as it’s probably not a surprise that, as vox.com notes, the Times’ generated a 11,000-word exposé on the working conditions of white collar workers at Amazon.

But it is hard to say whether these complaints are merely whittabootery knocked up for the purpose of generating clicks and stoking even more arguments and articles that pump out a fog of news reporting. In comparison with the seriousness with with Kantor talks about the piece, they probably are.

Can I have some feedback on that?
Wee Ricky knocks up a quick blog on whittebootery

So let’s quickly move on to something apoplectic.me knows something about… STROKES.

Moritz Erhardt was in my mind this week because a study in The Lancet has also been generating a fair amount of interest. As summarised by the journal, a study carried out in three continents and led by scientists at University College London has found that “employees who work long hours have a higher risk of stroke than those working standard hours”.

Or as those lovely folks at the NYT and The Grauniad have it, hopefully having read the results of the study in more detail than I have:

those who work more than 55 hours a week have a 33% increased risk of stroke compared with those who work a 35- to 40-hour week

Both of those reports, though, are very careful to cite a host of interlinking reasons for why long hours might trigger a stroke – as opposed to pointing to the long hours themselves.

Who's that dude with the short hair?
“I just needed a wee rest, thanks.”

This is in contrast with the excitement with which news outlets reported on the recent generation of the Ubble online test that predicts whether the questionee will die within the next five years. As I’ve mentioned, it’s a 13 or 11 question survay, and the questions are very much at a lay person’s level. Nevertheless, questions like, “How quickly do you walk?” fold in a whole bunch of other variables, allowing the experts who designed the test to use the smallest number of questions for the highest level of accuracy.

One might similarly say, working more than 55 hours a week folds in a whole bunch other factors that mean it’s 33% more likely that the subject will suffer a stroke.

Just read that sentence again:

Working more than 55 hours a week… means it’s 33% more likely that the subject will suffer a stroke.

I’ll leave that for you to ponder till next week. If off for a bit of dinner. And maybe a wee nap. It’s a big day tomorrow.

But which one is Strokey, really?
Nighty-night!
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