Several years ago, Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology published the results of a five-year study conducted on workplace suicides. Those results indicated people, at that time, were more likely to commit suicide on Wednesdays than on any other day of the week. But no one connected with the study gave any indication of what was magic, or lethal, about Wednesdays. Maybe more working people are predisposed to seeing the week as half-left, rather than as half-gone.
Be that as it may, it appears things haven’t gotten any better since then. According to a recent article in The Washington Post,
More people are killing themselves in the workplace than ever before. The number of such suicides for 2018 was 304 — an 11 percent increase from the year before and the highest number since the bureau began tracking the data 26 years ago.
We could make careers out of studying — or speculating about — the reasons for this uptick in workplace suicides: Maybe it’s job dissatisfaction. Maybe it’s the fraying of our cultural fabric. Maybe it’s the fact that we distance ourselves from each other as we surrender our lives to the Siren-call of electronic communication. Maybe it’s because, as we’re continually encouraged to look outward — to blame, to envy, to covet unto bitterness — we never learn that truth, contentment, fulfillment, and peace can only be found by looking inward.
Rather than adopting that career or engaging in that speculation, we offer, as a public service, a number of common-sensible things can be instituted in any workplace to get life and limb over Hump Day and every other day:
- Use different calendars. The Gregorian Calendar helps us synch with our clients. But preceded by the Sunday Night Dreads, the workweek begins on Monday. Wednesday follows Tuesday and precedes Thursday. The routine becomes existentially numbing. That’s why at O’Brien Communications Group, we each use a different calendar. We use the same clocks to maintain some semblance of a daily schedule. But some of us celebrate Ground Hog Day the same day others celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe Day. We have no predictable routines, no Wednesdays (just in case), and an endless variety of things to discuss around the water cooler.
- Swap jobs. This is a never-ending source of mirth and frivolity. Our most successful instance at O’Brien Communications Group was the day Steve Mildew from IT Operations swapped jobs with Mildred Blitz in Payroll. Somewhere around 10:30 that morning, our computer network crashed; and everyone received a $5,000 bonus. What a blast.
- Wear boxing gloves. Manual dexterity is like electricity, running water, Internet connections, cell service, and underwear: you never know how much you rely on it till you have to do without. If everyone shares the loss of manual dexterity, wearing boxing gloves at work can be an endless test of resourcefulness, a wonderful team-building exercise, and a welcome source of amusement. There is, however, some distress: users of computers, smartphones, and PDAs suffer most, followed by chronic nose-pickers.
As a last resort — since we share just one human condition and since no problem is unique — maybe we can try talking to each other a bit more.
Even if it’s just on Wednesdays, maybe we can try caring about each other a bit more, looking out for each other a bit more, making each other feel a bit less alone in our suffering.
It couldn’t hurt.