Casual Fridays see their fair share of odd outfits, but costume capes are still a rare sight. They are not appropriate office attire and management won’t shudder to send a cape-wearer to HR for education. There are exceptions, though, like when the boss makes you wear one.

Why are they wearing capes?

Capes, like the ones comic book heroes wear, can be harnessed for their shaming powers to save the world. Employees at an IT company in Tokyo have learned just that when some were forced to wear kitschy capes at work. This tactic was implemented to embarrass employees who worked long hours and dissuade them from working overtime. It was a success, with a consultant reporting that this reduced working hours by half. Other tactics to combat overtime are still being explored, including a drone that plays a song on repeat, harassing workers to go home.

Why is this important?

Overtime work plagues many countries, but is particularly insidious in East Asian countries, like Japan, South Korea, and China where death from overwork is visible enough to peg their own entries in the dictionary. The cultural demands specific to this region may spur more overtime hours in these countries, but the culture of overwork is a global challenge as brilliant, hardworking people clamour for uneven, financial resources. These unsafe conditions endanger people’s health and rob them of their well being. More drastic or innovative measures need to be taken to combat this systematic thinking that pervades much of the modern world.


Working hard for your bread is a noble lifestyle. Working so hard that your bread turns mouldy and rots before you can enjoy it is a non-lifestyle. The norm of working full-time may not be “natural”, as one writer posits. The more I see friends and family suffer from burnout or depression, the more I wonder whether this is due to the lifestyles assigned to us. If something isn’t working for you, find something that does. The work-life balance differs among people and I encourage everyone, employees and employers, to make time for customizing their desired balance.

Even a cape looks cool when it saves lives.


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