A Japanese government survey last year showed that one in five employees risked death from overworking in the Land of the Rising Sun. AFP PIC

INEMURI is neither a delicacy on a Japanese menu nor a name of one of the Pokémon.

For the Japanese, it means “sleeping while present”. Apparently, this is the Japanese way of handling people who are overworked.

How many times have we seen some of our hardworking colleagues catching a snooze while working.

To outsiders, it can be seen as someone being lazy or partying too much the night before.

However, those who know the sleeping co-workers can attest that their colleagues are too tired after logging in long work hours.

When the body decides it has had enough, it will “protest”, forcing the tired workers to temporarily shut down by dozing off.

Sleeping on the job may give a negative connotation, but it can also be our body telling us it needs to recharge.

On the extreme end of the spectrum of being overworked is death. It sounds morbid, but it has happened.

In Japan, dying as a result of overworking is called karoshi, a thorn on the Japanese government’s side until today.

The most recent karoshi victim was a 24-year-old Japanese ad agency Dentsu employee, Matsuri Takahashi, who had reportedly logged in 105 hours of overtime in one month.

A Japanese government survey last year showed that one in five employees risked death from overworking in the Land of the Rising Sun.

The survey said many of the overwork-related deaths were caused by suicide, heart failure, heart attack, or stroke — all of which can be brought on by excessive stress.

It looks like a short siesta is necessary to stay healthy or even to stay sane.

A research by the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration showed that when pilots were allowed to take a nap for 26 minutes while working, their efficiency rose by 34 per cent.

The benefits of naps are also supported by the Spanish Society of Primary Care Physicians, which stated that a short siesta could reduce stress, help cardiovascular functions and improve alertness as well as memory.

Short naps, however, will be beneficial if they become part of the regular daily routine rather than a one-off thing.

Famous people who valued short naps were British prime minister Winston Churchill, United States president John F. Kennedy, French military and political leader Napoleon Bonaperte, physicist Albert Einstein and inventor Thomas Edison.

As Malaysia is striving to become a developed nation and aiming to be among the top 20 nations by 2050, it may be necessary for those in Putrajaya to factor in the impact of being overworked into the equation to boost the nation’s productivity.

There is no denying that hard work and diligence are admirable traits to increase productivity. But, employees should also be supported by good health plans to ensure their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Instead of waiting for the government to help the country’s workers, the onus is on the employers and workers to help themselves.

When the deputy human resources minister reportedly said on Sunday that more than half of 6.8 million Social Security Organisation (Socso) contributors had health issues, we, especially employers, should be worried.

Based on health screening exercises conducted by Socso, the deputy minister revealed a disturbing finding that 73 per cent of Socso contributors had weight issues, 62 per cent suffered from high cholesterol and 27 per cent had high blood pressure.

Exercising, eating healthy, getting good rest with enough sleep and keeping track of one’s health via medical check-ups are several ways to promote our wellbeing.

For this to happen, there should be an understanding between employers and employees by allowing their staff to go on leave.

In Expedia’s 2016 Vacation Deprivation study, Malaysians revealed that a lack of vacation affected their professional lives, with 35 per cent admitting to being more stressed at work.

From the survey, Malaysians were reported to feel happier (37 per cent), better rested (29 per cent), less stressed/more relaxed (28 per cent) and in better health (27 per cent) after their vacations.

As you are reading this, some of you will be shaking your head in disagreement with what is being written here based on one own’s traumatic experiences dealing with the “scobberlotchers”.

Who are the scobberlotchers? They are those who avoid hard work like it is their job.

For now, I am taking a short nap to recharge as things have been and still are hectic here in the administrative capital.


With more than 15 years in journalism and a masters in Counselling Psychology, the writer is always drawn to the mystery of the human mind and behaviours.

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