by Elizabeth Oldfield
Wednesday, 20
November 2019
Idea
18:19

Pivot to burnout

Marketing experts should put their creative energy into rebranding Sabbath
by Elizabeth Oldfield
Marketing experts should put their creative energy into rebranding Sabbath

We’re all burnt out. This year the WHO recognised ‘burnout’ as an occupational phenomenon. Globally, medical professionals are reporting startling levels of burnout, and governments in countries seen as comparatively relaxed and balanced, like Sweden and Australia are dealing with worryingly high levels.

I was amused to see that some of those millennial brand creators most involved in pushing the kind of always-on, highly optimised, instagrammable lifestyles which arguably drive burnout are recognising the phenomenon. One is “pivoting to burnout” by launching a line of cookware explicitly not designed to be photographed, in the hope that learning to cook for the sheer pleasure of it will help people slow down. Prices start at $79 dollars for a small pan.

Pattern, the company (who, to be fair to them, are also enforcing 6pm home time and strict out-of-office emailing policies amongst their staff), are playing into a movement towards “domestic cozy” — less public performance, more private craft. And while I’m deeply sceptical that the solution of everyone feeling fried is buying yet more stuff, taking time away from economic or status-seeking activity may indeed be part of the answer.

Maybe, then, these masters of marketing should put their consummate creative energy instead into rebranding Sabbath. Sabbath is an ancient Jewish practice that might actually protect us against burnout. Sadly it is often associated with puritanical, freedom constraining cultures like the chaining of the swings on Sundays in the Outer Hebrides. The other objection is that only those who lack dynamism want to protect a day of rest. Greek and Roman authorities thought the Jews who practiced it, doing the ancient near eastern equivalents of switching off phones and refusing to answer emails for 24hours, were just being lazy.

In these burned-out times I’m thinking about how Sabbath can be neither puritanical or lazy, but about the freedom to recognise and respect our limits. About building boundaries around our time that allow our minds and souls to recover. One day a week to hit pause on the hustle. To look up from the glowing rectangular portals continually attached to our limbs and really notice the world around us. One day in seven to reflect on the big stuff that gets crowded out of our attention by the relentless roar of consumerism. Yes, maybe, to cook and eat a real meal without taking a picture of it, with people who really know us. We just don’t need $80 pans to do it.

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  • The recent publication of a prediction that despite the recent increase in polar bear numbers they are facing ‘extinction’ by 2080 is surely one example that illustrates the point made here.
    Who will be around then to challenge it? It can only have been made to make a political point not a scientific one.
    If you make a prediction beyond the lifetime of the current generation you are free to say pretty much anything you like

  • WRT to the govt acting on precise predictions, it is more likely they were following what was happening anyway as people modified their behaviour naturally in response to growing fear, having seen pictures and figures from Italy. The great transport graphs that show how well we have complied with govt instructions both in locking down and opening up, actually show that we were slowing down before we were told to and have been getting going again before we have officially been allowed to.

    The predictions I loved the most were the comparative predictions of what GDP would be over 10 years if we voted for Brexit and if we voted to remain. I think a lot of leave voters did actually believe this nonsense (when have predictions of GDP growth in just 1 year actually been accurate?) and voted leave anyway as a price worth paying.

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