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The World of Work – Have We Got It All Wrong?

Mandy has been working in the mental health field for more than eight years and has worked with a diverse group of clients. These range ...Read More

We spend most of our time at work, so it goes without saying that we should enjoy what we do. The sad reality is that most people do not enjoy their work. The logical conclusion to that suggests most of us spend a large portion of our lives doing what we don’t want to do. According to research, British men have the longest working week in Europe-47 hours and British woman work 43 hours. A third of fathers of young children in Britain admit to working more than 50 hours a week. The average man in the US spends just 25 minutes a week with his kids, yet American fathers place their children of the top of their list of priorities.

In his bestseller, “The man who mistook his life for a job”, Jonathon Lazear, a successful New York literary agent, argues that people who work to excess are just as guilty of social delinquency as the deadbeats who don’t work at all.

Where did the notion of work as the central focus of life come from? The ancient Greeks saw work as a tragedy. In fact, for most of history, paid work has been sniffed at by anyone with the rank or intelligence to avoid it. Only in the 16th century did the Calvinists begin to talk up the notion of a “work ethic”, which was held to be both pleasing to the Almighty and improving for mankind. In 21st century Japan they have a new law called “karoshiin”in, which means that if you die of over work, your boss goes to jail! I like it!!

Not only do we work crazy hours as adults, but we also expect our children to adopt this way of life. Children, like adults, are expected to be busy  actively pursuing something for most of their waking hours. Children often feel under pressure because their parents over schedule their lives-enrolling them for countless activities such as French, German, computer courses and music lessons. Children are missing a lot of things we would associate with a normal childhood, such as being bored and messing around in the garden doing nothing.

Last year the children’s charity, ChildLine, received 783 calls about exam stress from under 16’s. One in seven was aged under 13. At the same time, the UK government has introduced early learning goals for children as young as three and this generation of schoolchildren are the most tested ever. From a psychologist’s point of view it would seem that the more unhappy and dissatisfied we are, the more we want our kids to excel and do better than us.

Most people who work long hours tend to be unfocused, putting far more effort into things than is necessary. Perspiration spells pressure. Never forget that there is only one of you yet the company you work for will continue after you’re gone. Keep your effort in perspective. Trying too hard never works. Companies play on people’s insecurities and foster a mindset that encourages working overtime and sacrificing personal time. Believe in yourself and do not let your company exploit your need  to do your best.

Work has become a great excuse for almost everything else. I can’t have a social life because I have to work or I know that my marriage is in trouble but this work project needs to be delivered on time. Talk about skewed priorities-what the heck is going on here?

Don’t buy in to the ridiculous notion that there is something wrong with you if you don’t fit the 9-5 mould. Sacrificing your main priorities such as your family, friends and free time to pursue your passion will most likely result in many regrets when you look back at your life one day. Think outside the box and read books on how to live and work more flexibly. One that I recommend is called “the four hour work week” by Tim Ferris. It offers ideas on how to break away from the traditional world of work.

Ever since my Sociology Degree, and my studies on Karl Marx, I have always wanted to escape the traditional world of work where the minority own the means to production and majority only have their labour power to offer. I wish I could come up with a better way.

Reference/Sources: The 10 Minute Life Coach – Fiona Harrold

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