‘Work.’ The word sounds with a sickening thud. It has a dark, dirty connotation even greater than that other four-letter word. You don’t have to be a coal-miner to wonder whether sixteen hours of eating, sleeping and what ever other scant compensation you can find, are worth eight hours of w-o-r-k.
The bible tells us that God worked for six full days on Creation. What sadomasochism! Why would an all-powerful God choose to bring the world into being through six days of hard labor when he could as easily do it through six days of lying on Clifton beach? God was clearly sending us a message. Either a third of life is punishment for some past-life misdemeanor, or work is supposed to be…fun?
Perhaps, done right, work can be even more fun than fun. Well, that’s what Noel Coward thought. He wrote dramas that took adoring audiences on fantastical journeys through the imagination. Anyone can see how that could be more fun than a crowded Clifton in December. Would Noel Coward have said the same thing if he had worked nine to five in insurance administration? Say his boss had the sensitivity of a Rottweiler, his office was done in three colors, beige, light beige and beige, and to top it off, he was forced to work with colleagues with as much joie de vivre as his grandmother’s corpse. If that were the case would Noel have been writing cutesy sayings about how much fun work is? Of course not, he would have been too busy writing his suicide note.
The truth is, work can be more fun than fun. But first we have to realise, its not work that sends us into a depressive stupor, it’s our attitude to work. Believe it or not even those with jobs most of us would trade an arm for, report diminished enjoyment on the job. Sportsmen admit to having less fun if they are playing for money than if they are playing purely for their own satisfaction. Somehow, knowing that they are playing to earn a living, knowing that they are actually ‘working’ takes out the fun. I’ve spent enough time working in film and theatre to know that the same is true in the entertainment industry. What ever the script in front of the audience, back stage you can be sure, it’s bitch, moan, winge and whine. And these guys are supposed to be living the dream.
Why do people whose work sounds like most peoples play, battle with Monday to Friday morning blues? For the same reason we all do. It’s got to do with perceived control. If you know you have to get behind your computer by 8.30 am, it’s just not as fun as doing it because you’ve chosen to. Yes you might have gladly chosen it originally, when you were unemployed and this seemed like the fast track to group CEO and a company TT, but down the line it can quickly become ‘just a job’, ‘something I have to do.’
If work is ever going to be more fun than fun, we’ve got to renew our choice to be there, and know why we we’re making that choice. The money is not enough. In fact that’s about third or forth on the list of why people leave their jobs. What do you love about your work? (Besides home time.) The answers should fire you with enthusiasm, (or beware you might be fired with enthusiasm). Perhaps we should remind ourselves how exciting work seemed when we were kids. The idea of helping people, organizing an event, managing a project, being needed, that seemed like heaven. So what happened? We got conned into thinking we were doing it for ‘them’.
Once you know you’re there for you – and you can leave with a month’s notice – you won’t settle for 3-colour beige office décor. You’ll come in on Sunday and decorate your office, your style. You also won’t settle for boredom. You’ll be the one who initiates that new product spin-off, that takes the company in a whole new direction. As for negative colleagues, well you’re hardly going to let them ruin your fun. You’ll play on your own if you have to. Concerned that all this enthusiasm will bring you no financial reward? That’s why you’ll insist on profit-share. And with your newfound productivity – you’ll get it. By the way the best barometer of your productivity is probably how much fun you’re having. Asked the secret of his success, Richard Branson replied in one word, yip, you guessed it – ‘fun’.
If you’re not convinced, consider a life without work. I know more than my fair share of middle aged people who don’t work because they don’t have to. Most of them suffer from a disease called ‘Afluenza’. It’s a kind of low-level depression with spurts of anxiety that is the bounty of the rich and bored. The quickest way to catch Afluenza is to win the national lottery. Few people have managed to master a life without work. Still dying to retire? You may just. Research shows those who retire sooner, are more likely to be dead, sooner. Our very will to live is tied up with the sense that we are making a positive contribution.
Finally, if you think its your boss that prevents you from having more fun than fun, get a new one, or better still, become your own. Too difficult? No, staying in a job you hate is much more difficult. Just make sure it’s the job that’s got the problem and not your outlook.