Jonathan Frostick, program manager at an investment bank in London, said he couldn't breathe as he sat at his computer on a Sunday afternoon preparing for the work week ahead. His chest contracted and his ears started to pop. He's had a heart attack.
His first thoughts were how this would disrupt his work life.
"I had to meet with my manager tomorrow," wrote Mr. Frostick, who works for HSBC, in a post on LinkedIn. "It's not convenient."
Later, while recovering in a hospital bed, Mr. Frostick began investigating his life, he wrote. Under a photo of himself in his hospital bed, he made new vows for his future life:
"I don't spend all day with Zoom anymore."
"I'm restructuring my approach to work."
He couldn't stand playing drama in the workplace any longer. "Life is too short," he wrote.
Finally: "I want to spend more time with my family."
Since describing his revelation a week ago, his post has been liked over 200,000 times. It has received more than 10,000 comments from readers describing how their own deaths resulted in them stepping down from work and taking stock of the way they lived their lives.
The post caught on at a time when tired people around the world are experiencing boredom, anxiety, and more work-related stress during the coronavirus pandemic.
Even those lucky enough to keep their jobs have questioned their purpose in life as they spend long hours on Zoom calls and answering emails late into the night.
At the same time, employees who have managed to strike a better balance between their work and personal lives during the pandemic are now expecting to return to the office so they will have to reassess how much time they want to spend on work.
"I have known countless people over the past few years who have suffered from life-threatening illnesses simply because there is no downtime – always on call," wrote a management consultant from Alberta, Canada, in response to Mr. Frostick's post. "It is absolutely harmful to health, but we are building on the existence that we must continue to push forward."
Another person described being so burned out at work that she was admitted to a mental hospital.
"I'm telling you, brother," wrote a self-described Nigerian entrepreneur who said he had sold his many cars and houses to lead a happier, "spartan" life. “Bro, welcome to real life. Now you will really, really live. "
In business today
April 21, 2021, 6:16 p.m. ET
Others gave him tips on how to lose weight – Mr. Frostick also vowed to lose 50 pounds – or asked him to appear on their podcasts so he could share his story with their listeners.
In addition to compensation and professional status, a job offers social rewards, such as praise from colleagues and supervisors, which can be addicting, said Glen Kreiner, professor of management at the University of Utah.
People protect the identity that a job creates for them so much that they work long and tedious hours without considering whether they are happy or fulfilled to protect them, Professor Kreiner said.
"We humans tend to be thoughtless rather than mindful," he said. "When we're in a thoughtless state, we're on autopilot."
Professor Kreiner added: "So sometimes it takes a disaster like this to break us off the autopilot."
Mr. Frostick did not immediately respond to a message for comment.
In an interview with Bloomberg News, Mr Frostick, father of three young children, said he and his colleagues "spent a disproportionate amount of time on Zoom calls" during the pandemic.
Before the heart attack, Mr Frostick worked 12-hour days, missed his colleagues and suffered from the isolation of working from home.
"We're unable to have these other conversations near a desk or at the coffee maker, or take a walk and talk," Frostick told Bloomberg. "That was pretty profound not just in my work, but in the entire professional services industry."
Robert A. Sherman, a spokesman for HSBC, said the company had told employees the importance of balancing work and healthy living.
"We all wish Jonathan a full and speedy recovery," he said in an email. “We also recognize the importance of personal health and well-being, as well as a good work-life balance. The answer to this topic shows how preoccupied people are with this, and we encourage everyone to make their health and wellbeing a top priority. "
On Wednesday, Mr. Frostick thanked the thousands of people who had written to him and wrote that he could now move around his house for two to three hours at a time.
He later wrote another post indicating that he had moved from soul searching to attempting to answer profound philosophical questions.
"Who am I? It's like a riddle my mind can't solve," he wrote. "I have no idea who I am. It will take some time … Can you answer who you are?"