How Do You Really Feel About Work?

I’ve been working on a study of workplace well-being and here’s a little about what I found.

Image of a guy working at his desk for article by Larry G. Maguire

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

I’ve been working on a study of workplace well-being and here’s a little about what I found.

I’ve been quiet on the public writing front of late. I’ve been writing, just not on Medium or my personal website. I needed to put time and attention on my studies, and in particular, on my thesis — more on that in a bit — so the blinkers went on for a few months.

As such, my Medium street-cred plummeted, and I lost top writer status in Creativity, Psychology and Art. My Medium earnings dropped from a couple hundred Dollars per month to less than $20. That’s what happens when you go away for a while. I knew it would, but I had no other option but to step off the treadmill, because that’s what it is here — a content treadmill.

They reward us for coming here daily to write and publish new content in a couple of ways;

  1. More eyeballs on our stuff.

  2. We go up the ranking for particular keywords.

  3. They pay us more for each article we publish.

So if we dip out for even a couple of days, we begin to fall off the radar.

So be it.

If I want to build my Medium earnings and status again, it just means I need to get here daily and write. I have some time and headspace now that my thesis is finished, so lets see how it goes.

It’s good to be back writing here all the same… I enjoy it.

Here’s what I’ve been working on…

A Study of Workplace Well-being

About 5 or 6 years ago I watched a video put together by Isaac Blencowe and published on his YouTube channel (subsequently removed for some reason or other). The original is still available (watch below). Anyway, the message taken from an Alan Watts lecture circa. 1960s, provided clarity on something that had been bothering me and so began a journey into a question about the nature and function of work.

Why do we work jobs we hate?

The Paradox of Work

Only Those Who Take Their Time Will Survive

Video courtesy of Omar K.F., originally created by Isaac Blencowe

A business I had started 15 years earlier had failed, and I was totally at odds with the work that at one time I had loved. I sat around for about two years doing very little. I started running marathons and drawing, both of which I became quite good at. Everything else took a back seat and although my personal finances were in the toilet, I was happier.

For many years, Friday evening and two bottles of wine to me was a godsend, Monday was a return to hell. Content on the likes of LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and everywhere else online for that matter, was all about money and success, but none of it made sense to me. It was like all these messengers were delusional, selling a lie you could say. They seemed to believe the lie, and the people who voraciously consumed the message believed it too.

Anecdotally, people were telling me they hated their work, that it was a means to an end. I had felt the same. At the same time, it was obvious that others loved their work and were completely engaged and turned on by it. I watched a documentary about a knife maker and I was inspired.

I had to get to where he was.

So I was asking a question, and an answer slowly began to come. I started studying psychology and the thesis just completed yesterday is in many ways an answer, albeit only the next stage in its development.

The Results

The thesis is undergraduate level, so not exactly something with any real clout. Nor is it something that could perhaps be published, but its a reasonable stab at exploring this paradoxical phenomenon — i.e. we seem to both love and hate our work at the same time.

Go ahead and do a lit review on the psychology of work, and I’m certain you’ll find similar to what I have. That is, there is evidence that suggests the same cohorts of people give apparently opposing reports on work satisfaction.

In my study, there were 230 respondents and when I assigned them to groups based on self-report demographics, none of them reported satisfaction with work. All were either dissatisfied or slightly dissatisfied.

When I asked for their comments on how they felt about work, 53% said they either loved, liked, enjoyed, or otherwise had a positive relationship with their daily work.

Image by Author: word cloud representing responses from participants in the study.

“I feel honoured that I get to serve other people” — Respondent 176

Another said;

“I know I am possibly in a rare situation as an employee but I do very much enjoy my work” — Respondent 189

On the other hand, 42% reported a negative relationship with work. One respondent said;

“I work to live, I don’t live to work” — Respondent 166

Another said;

“It’s a grind, only doing it cos it pays the bills” — Respondent 44

On a measure of work satisfaction, corporate directly employed workers without responsibility for others (CPDEwoSR) (ie only responsible for themselves) were higher on work satisfaction than their directly employed counterparts in management (CPDEwSR). In previous research, managers were found to be higher on work satisfaction. Additionally, those who were higher on work satisfaction were lower on psychological health. That seems strange to me. Should we not see increased general psychological health given greater satisfaction with work? [Note: higher scores on GH showed greater probability of psychological disorder]

Image by Author: Examination of four groups; creative directly employed and corporate directly employed, both with and without supervisory responsibility for other workers on measures of satisfaction with work, subjective happiness, and general health.

The above is just an example of the results of the study and I will publish it entirely here on The Reflectionist and my website after it has been graded. Regardless, it has reinforced my view that there are vast swathes of people unhappy in work — both self-employed and directly employed people.

I think we need to get back to something more meaningful. Daily work is not supposed to be soul destroying. It’s not supposed to be transactional, it is supposed to be something we can spend a life, or part thereof, engaged in for the enjoyment it brings.

In the words of one of the respondents to the study when asked to describe their feelings about daily work;

“Excited. It makes me want to get out of bed in the morning, something I didn’t have before. It makes me dream of things I can achieve and hopeful to achieve them” — Respondent 102

This is a topic I can run with, at least for a while. I aim to apply what I have learned to both business and sport because I see them both as really the same thing only wearing different clothes.

Maybe the work I do can help some people find the right road — for them.

Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. Every morning you’ll find me sharing a new thought on life, art, work, creativity, the self and the nature of reality on The Reflectionist. I also write on The Creative Mind. If you like what I’m creating, join my email list to receive the weekly Sunday Letters