By Amit Bhanot
Work – an activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result 2. the activity or job that a person does to earn money.
When you search ‘work’ in the Oxford English dictionary these are the definitions that you find.
However, the word conjures up a different image for each of us based on our individual
preconceptions and ideas of its meaning. For me work usually invokes particular phrases such as; ‘I have so much work to do’, ‘I have to go to work today’ or ‘this work never seems to end’ and invariably has some negative connotations associated with effort and, at the extreme, some serious mental exertion. It involves something that needs to be done unwillingly rather than an activity that you may want to do.
The average person spends around 90,000 hours at work in a lifetime.
That’s pretty scary as it means, having spent less than 20 years working in various jobs, I am not even halfway to reaching this number and to be honest I am not very confident of even reaching that target. The only positive note to make me optimistic is maybe the fact my father is still working into his 70’s. My experience of work is very varied with my first job being at the age of 23, working long hours as a criminal lawyer feeling at the time like the work was literally taking over my life. Though, to be factually correct, my first job actually started much earlier at the age of 14 working as a cashier at my uncle’s convenience store. This was followed by a part-time position job at 18, working weekends and holidays while studying law at university, at a large shoe store in London. This involved fitting the first pair of shoes for toddlers and school shoes for young children and, despite the tears and tantrums, mostly just from the stressed-out parents, it was still a fairly light and fun job to do. Quitting law after a decade to pursue my dream to become a teacher was not an easy decision, with many questions, both of my own and from others. As a teacher, the difference was immediately apparent with work no longer felt so laborious. It was instead more of a pleasure for me than a chore, the students providing opportunities for lightness and laughter, the opposite to the stress and heaviness felt working with criminal clients. Indeed as a teacher, there have been some sporadic experiences of being in a state of ‘flow’, one when you no longer need motivation or coercion in trying to focus, forget you are ‘working’ and when effort becomes redundant as there is little actual effort involved, especially when the process is enjoyable. But as enjoyable as it is there are constant reminders that it is work, such as the need to be at school at set times every day, having specific holiday periods and being answerable to someone else.
Whilst teaching I have continued learning and trying to improve myself as an educator, and the
latest course that I am undertaking on cultures of thinking suggests not even using the word work in the classroom. So in class giving students instructions, where I would usually say; ‘okay we have a lot of work to get through’, work has now been replaced with other more positive words associated with learning.
So when did work become such a bad word and has it always had negative connotations associated with it? Most adults work as a necessity to earn a wage and pay for the things that they need or want, with a few being lucky enough to enjoy their work. Maybe there was a time when people
enjoyed their work, such as our long-departed ancestors, and felt more connected with it than
today. However, we face an altogether different challenge today, as apparently, machines are going to do most of the work and tasks that we currently perform as part of traditional jobs or professions. So having everything we need to be done for us leaves us with the possibility of not having to work and, providing that we are financially supported by the state to provide for our basic needs, we may be able to choose what we do with our time.
What will you do? Will there be motivation to do anything at all? I know for sure that relaxing on a beach for a prolonged period of time soon loses its novelty value and the need for intellectual
stimulation becomes necessary to stop brain rot. Maybe we would need to tap into our personal and collective pools of creativity.
Look out for the second part to this article in a future edition of the paper.