Bruce Daisley, podcaster, Twitter executive, and author of The Joy of Work and the forthcoming Eat Sleep Work Repeat, has a short and great piece in The Guardian explaining “Why stressed workers need four-day weeks – not wellness trends:”
The latest wellness trend to assail us? “Gong baths.” For those unfamiliar with the term, a gong bath aims to provide spiritual nourishment via long, calming notes played on a large metallic percussive instrument. Yes, it is just a gong – from an orchestra, maybe, or that excessively styled Cotswolds B&B you stayed at – and people are reportedly chilling out like crazy by lying down next to one while it’s being bonged…. You will not be surprised to learn that large corporations have rushed to embrace gong baths. Some top firms are reportedly booking sessions with gong masters in their endless pursuit of workplace wellness.
From the picture in the article, a gong bath seems to involve going into a Mongolia ger and listening to a gong hit by people who just came from the Sigur Ros reunion show in Oslo.
There is probably nothing bad about seeking escape in the shimmering omm of a gong, but the suggestion that it could undo the mental damage of modern office work is an insult. With every mindful minute, every gong bath, we move away from an honest conversation about how we need to change work. Is the answer to the electronically elongated working day that we trade down to a four-day week? Should we switch to a six-hour day? These are meaningful debates that need to be had – but we are unlikely to start them over the bonging of a gong.
I’m as big a fan of cultivating mindfulness as anyone (I did write a book about it, after all!), but I think that Daisley and other critics of corporate wellness programs are spot on, and that all too often these kinds of programs are used as a salve to help people deal with issues– poor scheduling, meaningless products, bad management– that should be dealt with by organizations, and communicate the idea that people, not institutions, are responsible for dealing with things that really require structural solutions.
One of the things that’s powerful about the 4-day week is that it moves us away from thinking of issues of work-life balance, burnout, and so on as personal ones that we all have to deal with by ourselves, or in negotiation with our bosses, and into things that can be more efficiently solved with structural changes (that, coincidentally, benefit everyone).