Work! What is it good for?

WORK! (?) Covid Edition.

Work for many will never be the same again. Even now, in mid Covid-19 pandemic how and where we work has changed and in the main the focus has been elsewhere and not on congratulating ourselves for getting on with it and still getting the job done. Not only that but there is a lot of evidence that many are actually MORE productive too. Going into the office may be a thing of the past for some with the majority of their work on-line. For others such as plumbers, bus drivers, cleaners or airline pilots there won’t be a choice.

It is likely that at either end of the spectrum, all IN or all online things will work well so long as the top brass are also where the people are, even if that is virtually. There are a number of concerns which are for the time being guesswork. Will there be a ‘pandemic’ of mental health issues when the novelty of working from home, avoiding the commute etc. What if all the family are now working from home? What will be the consequences of being with your spouse/partner 24/7? What about the children? It may ‘work’ working from the kitchen table smartly dressed only from the waist up on Zoom, but what are the psychological consequences? Where does work end and home life start? (A. presumably below the belt!) Was there ever a good reason for business attire? If so what was it and is it still relevant now. Some of those who have worked from home for a number of years suggest it’s still important to get dressed for and go to work (even if it’s in the next room – working in the bedroom for anything less than the short term is apparently a BIG no,no!) in order to get their heads in the right place too. What about the camaraderie? Talk in the elevator, at the water cooler or over a coffee? Didn’t we think that was where relationships and business was built in many cases? The friendly wave on arrival or a cup of coffee mysteriously landing on your desk when looking stressed is not easy to reproduce online.

There is however a great deal of work being done by Zoom and others to try and make this easier. Maybe a red background says “I’m busy, don’t disturb me unless it’s urgent”, whereas green says – happy to wave or chat with mute automatically turned off. Believe me there will be change and some of it for the better, but is it progress when there are no handshakes, hugs, the smell of coffee brewing or a ne perfume/aftershave? What happens to all those things we have taken for granted but were never able to measure? If it’s not measurable does it really not exist? And if so does it really have no value? We are social animals after all living (and working)  in large groups. That’s apparently why we wear clothes so the social doesn’t get confused with the sexual, we go elsewhere for that and get undressed there!

So, back to the topic!

When asked what do you do? Do you define yourself by your work? Of course, most of us do this almost as if it’s a reflex, but are we not so much more? If so, we individuals will have to come up with another answer if we retire. If answering in the past tense……I used to be X, is ‘unacceptable’ or probably more correctly avoiding the present and who I am rather than who I used to be, then a good place to start is to answer the question, ‘Who am I outside the workplace?’ (Not only to myself but to others too.) If the answer is rather hollow then like a study by Challenger, Grey and Christmas Inc. found, 50 percent of people who accepted early retirement were more than happy to return to work after only three months off work!

A possible explanation was found by a US Department of Commerce survey which found that only 58per cent of retired people experienced a great deal of satisfaction in how they spend their leisure time – it takes a different kind of effort for many of us to enjoy our time away from work and many of us haven’t had much practice!

In his excellent book ‘The Joy of Not Working’ Ernie J. Zelinski suggests that way back our ancestors didn’t actually work the hugely long hours we do now, presumably due to the lack of natural light but that the protestant’s and their ‘work ethic’ ruined it for us – that and electricity and the ability to light up the work place beyond dusk and create a longer working day!

We have a lot to thank the industrial revolution for but there are downsides and as our forebears were then fooled into thinking this would make life easier for all, we are now! The digital age has actually made it easier for us to work longer, harder and from almost anywhere on the planet! Work is often our primary source of self-esteem, recognition and approval. Ernie goes on to ask the important questions:

  • How much of your identity is tied to your job?
  • Are you limiting yourself as a human being?
  • What sort of person would you want to be without your work?

He suggests writing down your 5 best traits, without including work related ones (like ambition or hard work) to help you generate ideas for putting your talents to better use.

Most of us don’t take time to question what we are thinking and adopt a set of values that are appropriate for the time we are working. However, these need to evolve and change because as we age as we will lose some of our mental flexibility. It seems that most of us are uncomfortable with the belief that our own attitudes and beliefs are what makes us successful and happy as opposed to the Protestant work ethic and the view that a person’s duty and responsibility is to achieve success through hard work and thrift. However, perception is everything and what you see is what you get and many of us will have to adjust to a new way of thinking when retired from a major job.

Please consider getting hold of his book – It’s a good easy read and although no rocket science is involved reminds, us in a non-challenging or threatening way, what we probably already know DEEP down is ‘correct’ and gives pointers and ‘real life’ stories of those who have achieved ‘The joy of not working!’ to inspire us to move in that direction.


“My father taught me to work, but not to love it. I never did like to work, and I don’t deny it. I’d rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh — anything but work.”

Abraham Lincoln


A man after my own heart – A life of TOYL  rather than TOIL for me … and for you?


He was a funny guy too! That’s why Lincoln Laughed!






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