The Dire Reality of Work Culture

And the Importance of Days Off

During the week of Thanksgiving, District 86 approved a full week off—an uncommon move in comparison to previous years. Although students had time to rest, recharge, and enjoy the company of their loved ones, questions about the overall work culture of high school students were raised.

Work culture, especially within high schools, is toxic. There are expectations and overwhelming pressure to take any type of work in stride. Students often feel as though they must do their best regardless of personal struggles, and the workload and pressure to do well only worsens as final exams and the holidays approach.  There are also a lack of breaks due to the District’s decision to eliminate most three day weekends for students, such as Columbus Day, which has created a toxic pattern of school, homework, sleep, and then school again. In response to a survey taken by forty-six students of Hinsdale South, an overwhelming 84.5% reported that they felt burnt out prior to the break. In response to feeling overworked, one student stated, “School is emotionally and physically exhausting. The almost complete lack of breaks prior to Thanksgiving caused a monotony that furthered these events.”

Those struggling with personal issues, seniors who are applying to college, athletes, and students in the musical report the most stress. Prior to the break, their lives were consumed with school and were struggling to keep up. Many students reported the break being “necessary” as it allowed them time to catch up, have a mental health break, and spend time with their family. 

Having days off is important for students’ mental health and can actually improve the work culture of an environment: after break, pressure to “bounce back” to where you once were was noticeably low, proving the importance of days off. Many students reported their academic performance, mental health, and overall well-being improving.

Inherently, work culture within schools is harmful. School becomes similar to a full-time job and the work culture within school, as one student aptly puts it, places “too much emphasis on productivity without understanding the psychological impact of stress and overworking.” However, the atmosphere within high schools can positively change when breaks are provided, like the District providing the week off for Thanksgiving.