Tough Day at the Office ?

We all do it sometimes don’t we.

Moaning about our job, how hard we’re working, how busy we are, how bad our boss is, how hopeless our colleagues, how useless the organisation and especially how bad our pay.

Not many jobs are perfect, it seems, and it can often be tempting to let what’s wrong dominate our thinking. After all, it’s not as if we’re working for the fun of it, we’d much rather be at home relaxing, spending time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies or other activities.

Work is all too often something we begrudgingly do in exchange for the money we need to live our lives.

Of course we don’t moan all the time, and more than ever we do realise that we’re really lucky to have a job at all. But perhaps we could spend a little more time considering exactly just how lucky we are.

It’s natural to compare our lives with those around us – work colleagues, friends, family, and increasingly TV and media celebrities, about whose lives we are increasingly familiar.

Our tendency to compare and measure ourselves against our immediate peer group, is of course normal, but not always healthy. It can easily result in a sort of ‘bubble consciousness’ – being out of touch with the rest of society. It’s partly responsible for vastly inflated board room salaries, as CEOs compare their package against that of their chums at the Institute of Directors, and for dodgy politicians who submit ‘questionable’ expenses claims because ‘everyone else seems to be at it’

Of course it also applies to the lack of aspiration and drive that can infect our worst housing estates and schools, or the societies increasing levels of material greed, as we increasingly measure our lives in terms of ‘stuff owned’.

Perhaps if we were more familiar with the bigger picture, more aware of the lives of the billions less fortunate than ourselves we might feel less hard done by, more privileged, luckier ? Every parent tells their kids ‘be thankful for what you’ve got’ – perhaps we should listen to our own advice more?

And it may well also be that our relationship with paid work may have to fundamentally change in the future.

We read a lot of speculation about peak food, peak water, peak oil or peak energy, and whether there will be enough of these scare resources to go around the seven billion of us and rising. Should we also consider whether we are at, or nearing a time of peak work ?

There are millions unemployed around the world. Not because there isn’t plenty to be done, but because no one is willing or able to pay for it to be done.

The streets might need more cleaning, the elderly more visiting, and the sick more nursing – but, as we know, all these things come at a cost, and our societies all too often seem to know the cost of everything, but the value of nothing.

Most visions of a more sustainable future for us all require the production of far fewer material things, less travel and transport, and ever more efficient use of energy and technology – it’s difficult to see how we will all make a living within our current economic model.

No doubt there will be a transition, of course, and it seems to me we would be well advised to ‘share the work out‘ a little more.

In the meantime. . .

. . . if you’re not too keen on the prospect of going to work today, the remarkable series of films below might just prompt you to reflect a little. Capturing the lives of those undertaking hard physical labour, for very little reward, in places as diverse as Nigeria, Pakistan, Ukraine and Indonesia, these films provide a tiny glimpse into the lives of others across the globe.

Have a nice day.



Photo from Dickuhne via Flickr

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  1. Many jobs don’t NEED doing. Work is created as part of making the world go round. When we we think about the basic needs of humans are: food, water, shelter, clothing and freedon from illness, most other jobs are just a result of a commercial world e.g. clothing designers, musicians or landscape gardeners. I am not saying these are unecessary jobs, but they are not essential for human existence. But life as we know it in 2012 means that a lot of people can have a lot of things, and choice in our work is one of them. If you’re in the wrong job think about moving, or going job-share. Or start a company of your own. Moaning about work is not good for you nor those around you!

    Equally, I do believe workplaces should be more geared towards making employees happier and help a work / life balance. People like Cadbury saw the benefit of this.

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