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New article says happiness at work is impossible. I don’t buy it. Surprise :o)

Posted Nov 01 2012 9:20am

An article called The Dangers of Viewing Work as Play by Zeesham Aleem makes some great points about shifting working conditions and the need for organized labor, but then goes on to argue that being happy at work is basically impossible.

I found the article because I’m mentioned in it:

Google is known for promising outstanding quality of life to many of its employees, from its cafeterias to its napping pods.

Alexander Kjerulf, a consultant who calls himself The Chief Happiness Officer, wrote a book called Happy Hour is 9 to 5. Ideally, the knowledge worker is able to make play out of work.

Sounds great, right? But no, that’s not how things are according to Aleem:

But reconceptualizing work as fulfilling doesn’t alter its ultimate infringement on leisure.

Enjoyable work at a desk still takes a toll on the body and the mind. The non-physical nature of labor masks the fact that on average, knowledge workers peak in productivity after their sixth hour of work.

But most importantly, no matter how much you love your job, it’s time that generally isn’t under one’s control — time that could be spent on health, family, friends, community and doing things that can alter the conditions of society.

Got that? No matter how you dress it up, at the end of the day work is hard, unpleasant, out of your control, bad for you and takes time away from all the other things you would rather be doing.

This is presented as just the way things are and even worse as the way they should be with Benjamin Franklin as the role model:

Franklin represented an attitude toward work that coupled industry with frugality, the signature sign of grace according to Calvinist doctrine. Hard work was an end in itself

This attitude towards work is all-pervasive in the Western world and has been for thousands of years. Just yesterday I mentioned it as a prime example of some of our most pernicious work-related cognitive illusions . But it’s still wrong for two reasons.

First, it’s factually wrong.There are and always have been plenty of people who love what they do, who come home from work fulfilled and energized and for whom work is a beneficial influence in their lives.

Secondly, this attitude is morally wrong because it’s hurting people. This attitude towards work is one of the main reasons why so many people accept stressful jobs, jerk bosses and bad working conditions.

Let me say this very clearly: If your work brings you down, drains your energy and makes you stressed and frustrated then something is wrong. This is not something that should be accepted or (even worse) idolized and sought out.

Work can make you happy and it should make you happy. Why anyone would argue otherwise is beyond me.

What do you think? Is work ultimately a draing on your time and resources? Or can it actually be a net-positive influence in your life? Please write a comment, I’d love to hear your take.

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