Anyone who follows my Vibrant Workplace blog could easily think I just plain hate the world of work. And don’t get me wrong – I do hate a lot about it. But I don’t hate ‘working’. In fact, I love working!
I think many look at young people in the workplace today and think they are lazy, disloyal and have no appetite for putting in a shift. Actually, I know they do because they say it often enough and it gets broadcast on LinkedIn…
But is it laziness or evolving values, and therefore priorities, emanating from having more information about the consequences of dedicating a life to a one-sided employment transaction? And has criticism of the next generation as they push for progress ever not existed?
“[Young people] are high-minded because they have not yet been humbled by life, nor have they experienced the force of circumstances.”
Aristotle, 4th Century BC
This month, I’m writing about why work is actually a good thing – and that may be a surprise to some of you! But it will probably help you understand my views – which are not that work is bad, but that the system it happens in is. And while it clearly isn’t in favour of the employee (who’s sacrificing 1/3 of their life to it so they can just about live) it’s not optimal for the employer or their customers either. It can be better, for all stakeholders concerned.
Those Pesky Kids…
I’m not so young anymore, but through the very nature of my choice to question the systems we are a part of – some folk criticise me. Why don’t I just get on with it like generations before me had to? Well, I did.
I’ve been the baggage handler lugging 30kg cases for peoples’ weekend breaks. The airport security guard you had the awkward moment with when you remembered what’s in your hand luggage. The skivvy in the kitchen getting yelled at for…everything. The restaurant waiter getting yelled at for the kitchen’s mistakes. The hotel cleaner finding all sorts of stains (…eww). The pizza chef who’d never previously made dough (in either sense of the word!). The call centre worker getting abused on the phone. I’ve walked planes into position, driven lorries, couriered shopping, worked in retail, marketing, HR, training and recruitment before I landed in the employee experience space.
I’ve worked since I was 12. At one point I had four part time jobs while also at tech when I was 16. I used to fill my schoolbag with sweets and chocolate, instead of books, to sell to other kids. I have work ethic. And many others do too. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it would be hard not to have work ethic today given the cost of living. But when you realise the system sucks, it’s hard to then ignore that. And when you want a better life than cartel capitalism offers, for yourself and those around you, and you recognise that you can’t have that life if you continue on your current course – is it so wrong to look for a better way? That’s what I did by setting up my company. But it’s also what a lot of other people do by changing jobs, looking for better circumstances – and in doing so getting labelled lazy, greedy and disloyal.
Is it greedy that we’re in a cost-of-living crisis while there are UK energy firms taking in £7.6 billion in profits (source: Statista)? Are their staff benefitting from that? One energy company recently advised people to keep energy bills low by “having a cuddle with your pets”, eating “hearty bowls of porridge” and “doing a few star jumps”…
I love working. But I love doing work that matters in a trade that results in a positive impact on my life. That can happen in a capitalist system. But like any system, it can be exploited. And what I’m calling for is re-balancing.
I Love Work!
I genuinely LOVE work! I remember when I used to spend 8-hours hauling luggage around and loading planes with suitcases. It was back-breaking at times – doubled over in the hold of an EasyJet packing the cases in so they would fit. But I loved it! You knew when that shift was finished, you’d done a day’s work. And that sense of achievement is good for people.
People want that sense of achievement that a day’s work can bring. In fact, it’s the second biggest driver of a positive day at work according to users of our employee experience platform, mooqi®. I love that, because it fundamentally disproves the LinkedIn mafia. Imagine using evidence to back up narratives… People have a good day when they achieve something. They often have a bad or terrible day when they don’t. So, they’re not just looking for a job they can coast through and pick up a pay cheque. That doesn’t make them feel good.
I love work so much that I’ve been accused of being nothing but my work at times. That stung a bit, and I do need to remind myself sometimes to get away and do other things. I need to be disciplined with myself and make myself switch off or I find myself passionately engrossed in what I’m doing until I need to go to sleep. But my work gives me purpose. And for me purpose is central to my happiness and wellbeing.
There’s a lot to like about a good career. In fact, it may even prolong life! During an 18-year ‘Healthy Retirement Study’ of 2,956 people separated into healthy and unhealthy categories (funded by the US National Institute on Aging) 12% of the healthy and 25.6% of the unhealthy groups died.
After taking into account factors such as the healthy group’s better education and finances, they found that healthy retirees who worked a year longer (over the age of 65) had an 11% lower ‘all-cause mortality risk”. Even the unhealthy group reduced their likelihood of dying by 9% if they delayed retirement.
I’m not sure there’s been a large enough study on a broad enough scale (taking into account things like the culture, society and type of work these people are part of or how long they delay retirement) to have a definitive answer on whether it’s better to work on as long as we can. But there is no doubt while we can work it can offer many benefits to our quality of and fulfilment in life.
5 Ways Work Can Be Good for Employers & Employees
According to a study commissioned by the British Government’s Department for Work & Pensions “Employment and socio-economic status are the main drivers of social gradients in physical and mental health and mortality.” Here are just 5 reasons why work is good for us:
- Financial Stability & Security
A lot of people dream of being rich, but to be honest – would be content with being comfortable. Most of us aren’t greedy, we just want to have a nice life and not suffocating anxiety every time a bill hits. If we can find an employer who pays a good wage, not just the minimum they can get away with, we can have a good life. Taking that distraction off the table means people come to work focused on doing a good day’s work – not resenting the company. They’ll stay longer too reducing attrition levels and recruitment/ onboarding/ training costs.
- Connection & Belonging
We all want to find our tribe. Something that gives us an identity and allows us to connect with like-minded individuals. That allows us to build rapport, it stimulates us and makes life more interesting. We’re no longer alone. A healthy organisational culture can offer that, and in return the relationships forged will help a company flourish. People work for people, they work for each other, for those they connect with; not for companies.
- Feel Good Factor
When we do good work, we feel good about it. When we don’t do good work, or aren’t productive, we tend to feel crappy about ourselves. So, it’s important we work somewhere where we can engage with the work we do as it affects our self-esteem. And if organisations offer meaningful work that stretches and challenges people, then offer timely feedback (and when appropriate praise) they benefit through an engaged workforce that delivers more, better.
If we’re going to give up 100,000 hours of our lifetime to our work, that time passes a heck of a lot more easily if we feel like we’re making a difference in the world. And more and more people are looking to do work that is good for the planet and what lives on it! Organisations should work with their employees to formulate a clear, compelling vision and be sure to connect the dots between the efforts of the individual and the endpoint where their work has made a difference. Purposeful people are much more resilient.
Work can offer us an opportunity to fulfil our potential. But only if we find an organisation that encourages us to grow and develop. Organisations that encourage people to thrive and be their best selves will find an employee population that takes the company forward because of intrinsic drive rather than an extrinsic, exhausting, whip.
There are many reasons why work can be good for us, and some will be more / less meaningful or important to each of us individually than others. What is always important is working for an organisation that truly cares about it’s people, and organisations that choose to do that will benefit through talent attraction, performance and retention because of it.
What do you think is good about the world of work? Share your views in the comments!
The Vibrant Workplace Challenge
If you are an employer, we can help you factually identify how people experience work in your company and exactly what will engage your teams. We created the Vibrant Workplace Challenge to help our clients optimise their business performance by optimising their employees’ experience for the benefit of employer and employee.
Over a 3-month period we use our web and mobile app accessible employee experience platform to:
- Evaluate life in your company
- Compile a report with recommendations on what you’re doing well and what you may do differently
- Provide you with key cultural health indicators including Employee Engagement, Employee Experience and Employee Net Promoter levels
- If you meet our benchmark, we’ll verify you as a Vibrant Workplace which you can use as a symbol of your commitment to your people. It can help to strengthen an authentic employer and talent brand. If you need help to get there, we’ll offer our support to help you on the journey!