Work is a Relationship thing


“Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.” Studs Terkel

For many people here in the UK, this is the first full week back at work. It certainly felt like it with the level of commuting traffic on a Monday morning. This got me thinking that like it or not, but work does define your life. I know some people will argue it does not, but for many of us, it does. We spend more time working than ever before. We have moved way beyond the 9 to 5 Monday to Friday work life of our parents. According to one survey, we are working over 42 hours per week. If you add on the commute time of an average of 3 hours per day, to and from work, you are talking about 52 hours per week, of work related time. Our culture has become an “always on” one. We are travelling further and working longer than ever before.

However, it is not just the amount of work that we are doing, it is how we are now engaged in the world of work that I think is important. What often gets ignored is that just like the personal relationships we develop, we also develop a work relationship. I don’t mean with the people at work itself, I mean with the work itself. For many of us, the type of work that we do, also impacts how we engage in a broader sphere.

For some people, putting on shirt, tie and suit in the morning is like putting on armour, ready to go to battle. For some, work is about being authentic and consistent. For others, trying to help and support others around them is important. For many though, people are more often feeling part of a work machine. Work defines us in so many ways. Ways we sometimes forget.

I worked for a long time for a US technology company, called Hewlett-Packard. When I applied to the company it felt as if I was joining a special group of people. The work was hard, the hours were long and the level of commitment expected was high. However, in those early days, I did not feel at all that I was just part of a work machine. Perhaps that is rose-tinted hindsight, but I don’t think so. In nearly all the years I worked there, I never felt part of a machine. I felt that I could grow, develop and enjoy myself. I felt that I was recognised both as an individual, as well as for the contribution that I made.

Leap forward in time and I don’t think the world of work is the same any more. Many people I know that work in many different companies are mentioning to me a similar set of questions, along the lines of: “I don’t feel recognised as an individual”; “Work does not hold the same meaning any more”; “I feel I am not achieving what I set out to do”; “How can I help make a difference?”  

Perhaps it is an age thing? I don’t think so. Perhaps it is a perception thing? I am not sure. What I do know is that for the vast majority of us, what work we do defines us and the relationship we have with work also impacts how we interact with the world.

I came across a really interesting infographic on the changing dynamics of work. You might want to check it out here.
As always, I leave you with the following quote.

“People are more difficult to work with than machines. And when you break a person, he can’t be fixed.”  Rick Riordan, The Battle of the Labyrinth

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