By Jane Han
Taking a nap just before or after lunch had long been a daily routine for a thirty-something year old analyst at a foreign brokerage firm.
For the professional who works suicidal hours typically starting from 7 a.m. till way past midnight, a 20-minute midday power sleep was much needed and openly admitted ― that is, until his closest colleague recently lost his job.
``It was disturbing and difficult to see him let go, but his layoff alerted me that the situation we''re in now is no joke,'''' said the financier who, like others interviewed for this story, asked for anonymity for fear of jeopardizing his job.
``I still have my own office, a paycheck coming in and the status, but I don''t know when all of it is going to zap away. I better get my act together,'''' he said, adding that sometimes the anxiety makes him ``truly wonder if it''s lucky to survive a layoff or not.''''
Despite the national push for job sharing, the latest economic storm has blown away thousands of jobs across all industries, especially among foreign firms and small local employers cutting payrolls to reduce spending.
Avoiding the axe can seem fortunate at first, but survivors tell a different story.
One account executive at a Seoul-based public relations agency says no one in the office dares to complain about long hours these days.
``We have a crushing workload,'''' said the 28-year-old female worker, who is one of seven employees left in a formerly 13-person department. ``But who would want to be caught by the boss whining about their job in this kind of economy?''''
She said the psychological, emotional and physical stress has resulted in her getting two flu-like illnesses this year alone, adding, ``it sucks.''''
A 27-year-old research assistant at a stock brokerage says she is experiencing the same symptoms.
``Even though I still have my job, I feel like a victim,'''' she said, sharing her mixed emotions of thankfulness and frustration. ``Skipping breaks, canceling holidays and basically working like a dog are considered the norm now, and that''s starting to bother me.''''
Such complaints and dissatisfaction can seem inappropriate, but experts say the condition is natural, as layoff survivors feel as if they''re getting pushed to the edge of cliff.
``They turn into workaholics and the excessive hours and energy spent solely on work lead to bitterness,'''' said career coach Kim Sul-nam.
According to Web services provider Gabia, the number of network connections made to office computers outside of regular working hours has jumped three-fold compared to last year, indicating that more people are logging on to work at night and weekends instead of resting.
Kim advises, however, to refrain from overloading, as psychological and emotional health is now crucial more than ever to endure the mounting stress.