The American dream is built on the ideology of freedom and equality that allows anyone to succeed through hard work and tenacity. Silicon Valley echoes this call with more emphasis on hard work over talent. As Keith Rabois stated in a tweet recently, “It is pure arrogance to believe you can outsmart other talented people.”
Silicon Valley industry leaders and workers alike, work for longer than 55 hours a week and are even taught to accept it as a part of the road to success.
Despite the long working hours, Silicon Valley is hailed as the innovation and Startup hub of the world. They draw talent from all over the globe, encouraging young workers to fail fast, fail often, fail better, and fail forward. Their mantra being that failure helps you succeed and grow through hard taught lessons. Young graduates are drawn to the exciting and innovative atmosphere in the hopes of achieving success quickly.
Living and working in Silicon Valley comes with a lot of pressure, and for many, the benefits are worth it.
Growing health concerns of Silicon Valley workers.
Many of the largest companies in Silicon Valley have made healthcare a priority for their employees. For example, Facebook has offered primary, urgent, online care, physical therapy, acupuncture, and chiropractor facilities to employees as part of their health and wellness program. Aside from this, a new service called Care-a-van has begun in Silicon Valley. It offers mobile healthcare services like check-ups and vaccinations for workers, amid a rise in aging amongst silicon valley workers.
A survey showed that 75 percent of Caucasians, 82 percent of Asians, and 92 percent of Indians had a risk factor for diabetes or heart disease. Co-founder of care-a-van, Dr. Ronesh Sinha says, companies providing excellent health insurance, gym, and wellness programs, still have unhealthy workers. They are too busy to visit the doctor!
Most of his 30-year-old patients have the bodies of 50-year-olds with curved spines (because of prolonged sitting without the correct posture),
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potbellies, risk of heart disease, and diabetes. The source of this problem lies in their working hours and the free high-carb and sugar refreshments that they have in the office pantry.
Much of the problem stems from the work culture of Silicon Valley. Many arrive with the expectation that they would have to work 18 hours a day and accept it as a part of the intellectually stimulating, high paying job they have.
Yet there is still some effort from companies to combat this epidemic. Facebook’s health and wellness initiative sees a 65% subscription, leaving it frequently overbooked. If more people start making their health a priority in their busy lives, there is a high possibility of improvement in their well-being.
Nightmare traffic in the Bay Area
The Bay Area in California has some of the worst traffic in America, with commuters losing an average of 67 hours to traffic congestion. That is 60% higher than the nationwide average of 42 hours. San Francisco Metro area drivers lost an average of 78 hours in traffic, which translates to $1675 in productivity, fuel, wear and tear. While the rest of Silicon Valley lost $1400 in a year.
There have been several initiatives to tackle the growing traffic problem, EIT Digital’s DeepHack organized a hackathon to find a scalable, easily implemented solution.
Other solutions by Anna Kuhre, president of the San Mateo United Homeowners Association, involve rearranging workweeks. She suggests having 5% of the workforce of every company work night shifts and over the weekends. Thereby reducing peak hour traffic and improving the situation around the Bay Area.
Company shuttles and carpooling services by Apple, Google, Electronic Arts, Yahoo, and eBay help the growing traffic problem, but not all top companies offer these services.
Is high engagement leading to burnout amongst the best and brightest?
A recent study by Harvard Business Review showed that 1 in every 5 employees in the U.S.A is at risk of burnout due to high engagement.
Most employees work extra hours, take fewer breaks, and work weekends. It’s an accepted part of the Silicon Valley work culture, and it’s rewarding people who continue to make such sacrifices. While those who attempt to achieve a balance, have slower career growth. However, they managed to maintain their health and personal life well.
If both employees and employers work towards a work-life balance together, we will likely see more positive changes. Drive, determination, and a culture for innovation are all part of what attracts thousands of talented people every year. With a bit more focus on caring for employees, we are likely to see a more welcoming attitude.
You may also like: How a work life balance can save highly engaged employees from burnout.