Hey, what about that other millennium bug?

Work is making people sick, literally, writes Pamela Milne
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Much has been written and said over the past few months about the millennium bug, which threatens computer systems world-wide. But perhaps in all this frenzy we may have lost sight of an alternative millennium bug; one that has wheedled its way into our collective unconsciousness.

It's not a technical fault with its roots in the beginning of computer technology, but rather the psychological time bomb with its roots in a society that has put profit before people. Now, on the eve of the next millennium, people fear for their security and are reacting in two ways.

They are either working "their socks off" to be sure that when the axe falls they are not below it or they are switching to autopilot at work. In this second mode, people perform company rituals, go along with the latest "new idea" and say all the right things at the right time. Neither option is healthy, and, quite literally, people are going down with "the bug".

More and more people are reporting constant tiredness or low-grade chronic illnesses which just keep coming back or will not shift. These are classic symptoms of stress.

The brave often leave their jobs. If life on the outside works, they gain a sense of purpose, motivation and control that is rarely present in today's working environment. Others who leave often do so through fear or rejection and their self-esteem may be at an all time low.

So when 31 December 1999 has been and gone and the world has not imploded, let's hope that the workplace can become more vibrant and creative.

For most of us this would be a place where we could gain a sense of achievement from work through problem solving and the development of our skills. To achieve this there is no magic formula except to go back to the root cause of the problem. What is required is a complete review of the values and ethics that have placed money at the centre of our society in the first place.