An Advertising Employee’s Death Is Putting the Spotlight On Our Burnout Culture

Burnout is not a badge of honor.

Image courtesy of Unsplash

The death of an advertising strategist has put attention back on a deeply upsetting trend around the world —employees literally working themselves to death.

Mark David Dehesa worked at advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather’s Manila office and died February 19th after reportedly working through the night while suffering from pneumonia. A former colleague told Adweek that Dehesa was preparing for a meeting, working “through the early hours of the morning…until late that evening before asking to be driven to the hospital, where he later died.” As Adweek reports, his death “has already stoked the debate about work-life balance at agencies and overwork, a particularly contentious topic in Asia.”

We’ve written about this topic before, specifically “karoshi,” the Japanese term for death from overwork. Japanese advertising giant Dentsu came under fire last year after a young worker committed suicide, which many blamed on unfair and unhealthy principles that outlined how employees should essentially work themselves to exhaustion.

Ogilvy didn’t elaborate on the situation beyond confirming that Dehesa died “from complications leading to pneumonia,” but at least one employee has spoken out. Ogilvy copywriter Jeff Stelton wrote in a Facebook post that advertising agency work demands long hours that cut into time spent with loved ones and put workers health at risk. “With the untimely passing of yet another young colleague, I feel like it’s time we say ‘no’ to this unnecessary martyrdom,” he wrote. “It’s time to say no to getting up for a 9 a.m. presentation when you finished work at 4 in the morning.”

This is a sad reminder that not only is there work to be done before we erase burnout as a badge of honor, but that companies built on overwork need to change their ways if we’re going to make any progress.

Read more on Adweek.

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