Why Work Doesn’t Have To Suck
Some people might think that this is sad, but I can sincerely say that I live to work, not work to live. I can guarantee now that if I am in any fit state to have any last words, they will be: “If only I had spent more time in the office.”
As a good American President once said:
“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing” (Theodore Roosevelt).
Actually, Roosevelt’s last three words (‘work worth doing’) is the important point.
Work that one believes is worth doing is work that is fascinating, stretching, and rewarding, that stimulates the curiosity, and is work that is appreciated.
If you believe that the work you are doing is worth doing, then the much bandied about, supposedly aspirational attainment of a ‘work/life balance’ is irrelevant; in fact it actually gets in the way of the desired state of being fully absorbed in the work worth doing.
The opposite of work worth doing is dull, repetitious, drudgery that has no point and is seldom appreciated.
In that situation (and we can all think of lots of jobs where drudgery is the norm), this ‘work/life balance’ is what is craved.
The real issue is not work/life balance (a symptom of being in a bad or wrong job or one we’re not doing well) but the fact that too much of the work we do, whilst not exactly drudgery, isn’t as stimulating or as exciting as it could be. That we are seldom excited by or rewarded for our work, other than by a pitiful pay cheque at the end of a too-long month.
There are lots of reasons for all this, and lots of manifestations of it, but the net effect is that more people are dissatisfied and are looking elsewhere for satisfaction.
The great thing about working in the creative industries as I do, is that at its best, your CQ (Curiosity Quotient) gets a good work out every week. There are always new brands, new sectors, and new opportunities that you previously knew nothing about to get your head around.
Our CQ depends on the work we do being stretching and fascinating, and I’m not sure that that is the case for many people enough of the time.
So, we should be worrying about creating more challenging, interesting and engaging opportunities for more of our young people, which by the way should be partly about giving them responsibility at a very young age.
It is these structural changes that need to happen if we are to encourage well-being at work; that will demand more people bringing their whole self to work; that will be truly aspirational to anyone with a high CQ however young they are; and that is the best antidote to burnout that I know.