Why do we work? A redundant question indeed! Everyone has to work to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. But, are things so cut and dried? Is work just a complex, dead-end drudgery that we just have to do to earn bread and butter?
Well, it definitely is about the money, but not only about the money! Else, why would, say a Bill Gates or Mukesh Ambani still be working? This again begs the question – why do we work so hard even after becoming wealthy?
Besides, why do bankers abandon their lucrative professions to turn into violinists, lawyers reincarnate themselves as chefs and CAs as cinema producers! And, if work did not go beyond the earnings aspect, how would the concept of ‘voluntary’ work even come into being?
Think again, what would we do 24 hours a day if we did not work. How long can you watch TV, read, sleep or even play golf for that matter? In fact, pleasure activities acquire meaning only when punctuated by work. Even leisure is defined as time spent recovering from work!
Therefore, earning a pay cheque may be the prime motivator, but that is not the one and only incentive for doing work. Apart from meeting the material aspects and paying the bills, work compensates in many non-monetary ways too (and, I am definitely not talking about the ‘in kind’ perquisites that come with most jobs!)
Apart from the social conditioning that we ‘have to’ do ‘some work’, ask yourself why you really work. While most of us do view a job as a means to a pecuniary end, everyone has their own set of reasons for doing what they do. These can range from:
• Work gives meaning, purpose, direction to my life
• It’s about doing something I am good at – a celebration of my natural strengths, talents, knowledge
• I love what I do, it is a source of joy for me
• Work provides satisfaction, support, hope, a sense of personal fulfilment that is unparalleled
• My work gives me an identity – ‘I am a business consultant’ or even ‘I am a musician.’
• It is a source of pride, recognition, it stimulates my self-esteem, leading to a fuller life
• I like the challenge of – accomplishing goals, solving problems, making decisions or adapting to change
• Work lets me be creative, experience new things, learn more
• My work is part of a constant strive for excellence in whatever I do
• I like to be part of a team, I enjoy the camaraderie with colleagues or interaction with customers
• A sense of idealism may come into the picture where work is a personal mission to make a difference, create a better future, give back to humanity or simply to serve people.
• On a more basic plane, work provides physical activity that keeps me busy; it helps me fill my time with something to do everyday!
Little wonder then that it is always said, ‘You are what you do!’ To encapsulate, a job not only provides an income, but also fulfils a variety of other needs – mental and physical exercise, social contact, a feeling of self-worth and competence.
So much so that many people stay put in low paid jobs because they derive a lot of personal satisfaction from other aspects of that job. It may be that they feel a sense of pleasure when they see the results of their efforts or feel that they are doing something useful.
Yet, people do get trapped in bad jobs or so completely caught up in making ends meet that they fail to realise the pleasures of work.
But, the next time you catch yourself cribbing, ‘Oh! I got to work’ recall the famous insight of eminent psychologist Theodor Reik, “Work and love – these are the basics. Without them there is neurosis”.
Remember, we don’t ‘have to’ work as much as ‘need to’ work – and that makes all the difference!