Do you enjoy getting back to work after the weekend? Does work provide that je ne sais quoi that other parts of your life don’t fulfil? This week’s FTdynamo column maybe raises more questions than it answers about what we get out of our world of work.
Enjoy your job? Bounce into the office every morning? You are one of the lucky ones. But maybe you are not in the tiny minority you think you are. A new book form the UK’s Industrial Society suggests that one of the great untold stories of the modern workplace is the extent to which, secretly, we love our work.
‘Happy Mondays’, by the Society’s Director of Futures, Richard Reeves, issues a challenge to the moaning minnies of the workplace. If we all hate work so much, why do we spend so much time there? If work is such a burden and a bore, why do we reflect so long and hard on our ‘career prospects’, on what we might do next, on what we might achieve with colleagues or on our own?
Reeves wants to redress the balance, to answer the apparently never-ending series of stories about the ‘stressed-out’ workforce. Stress, he tells us, is exaggerated. There is pressure, there are deadlines, but a psycho-neurotic illness known as stress? Hardly.
And what about the work/life balance? Isn’t it the case that many people stay at work precisely because they prefer the fun and organisational structure of work to the chaos and truly industrial nature of the work that needs to be carried out at home? Some men stay in the office to avoid childcare and other domestic tasks. Some women find they are respected more and treated better as a professional than as a wife and mother.
Reeves’ unexpected analysis makes a refreshing change from monotonous whinges about the awfulness of paid work. In a sense he is getting back to the very old concept of the ‘dignity of labour’: work is good, we should enjoy it.
Critics will say that it is all very well for the author, in a well-paid and varied job, to tell the rest of us to enjoy ourselves more. Of course he likes his job – what about the rest of us?
Maybe the author is being a little naïve or idealistic here. Be that as it may, what ‘Happy Mondays’ provides is a challenge to all managers wherever they may be working. Are you making work as enjoyable as it can be? What is morale like where you are in charge? What are you going to do to make it better?
FTdynamo features writing and research from leading business schools and management consultancies.