The Benefits Of Work

“Why would I want to work?”

I had a man ask me this question yesterday. I couldn’t tell if he was be sarcastic, flippant or genuinely asking for a couple of seconds. However I tried, the usual visual cues weren’t there for me to pick up on. He didn’t have a wry smile, wasn’t folding his arms across his chest in defiance or really give anything away; so I took him as seriously asking and found out shortly I’d been right to do so.

After I gave him some of the many benefits and reasons people work, I started to think that there had to be others like him. So, this is for the ones who really don’t understand why people would choose to work. Please add your own reasons in the comments section.

  1. Purpose. Waking up in the morning feeling you’re contributing to something, or making the lives of others better in the work that you do gives one’s life meaning. Without purpose, a person can feel aimless, lost, lacking direction. Waking up and wondering what you’ll do with your day is nice occasionally, but as a fixed routine can lose its appeal quickly.
  2. Contribution. This can be a hard sell to someone who feels that the world owes them a living. Contributing your skills, experience, knowledge, wisdom, failures and successes with others actually gives back in many ways. If you don’t like the current way things are done in some area, get involved and work to change what you see could be better. Change from within and not from a distance is very effective.
  3. Learn. When you learn you grow, when you’re ripe you rot. Learning doesn’t just happen the first few days and weeks on a job. Some of the smartest people I know realize that learning happens every day in some way. Whether it’s in some small way or a huge change in how one does their work, learning never stops. When you’re not working, this can be impossible for some to grasp.
  4. Responsibility. Being responsible isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, this accountability can be extremely beneficial. A worker is but a part of a larger group of workers, and mutual responsibility means showing up on time with regularity and punctuality. It means being depended upon and counted on to add to an organization and in so doing lighten the load of others; bring your gifts to projects and make things better.
  5. Income. Not number one; but yes work provides income. Income alone isn’t what it’s about but rather, what income allows you to buy or invest in. Living where you choose, in accommodations that don’t just protect you from the elements but enhance your appreciation of the world around you. Money gives you the means to travel, eat better, visit those people and places that add to the richness of your life.
  6. Good mental health. Work is good for your brain; your mental stability; your intellect and what it wards off. Work and you stave off some anxiety and depression. You get more control of yourself and the world you experience. As you work, your brain cells get stimulated, you enrich your days and have things to talk about at day’s end that you’ve accomplished, struggled with, experienced and been a part of.
  7. Self-Confidence. Work and you’ll feel good about yourself. There’s that first pay cheque, the moments when the boss tells you you’re doing well, you complete something without having to be shown how, you create a product or give great service. “I can do this!” is a great feeling.
  8. Inclusion. You ward off isolation when you work because you’re part of a company, you work on a team, you interact better with those around you; feel like you’re a part of a group and yes, you are needed and appreciated. Whether a second family or not, your co-workers can become people you actually care about, and yes, they’ll care about you too.
  9. Self-control. When you work, you decide how much to spend and how much to save. You decide what to buy and what to save up for too. When someone far away is ill or you just want to see your family who live far away you have the means to get there. Save some each pay and you’ll have the money to get by if there’s a downturn in the economy, you get laid off, or you want to change jobs.
  10. Physical health. Work means physical exertion and movement. Not only is that good, but if you get ill, you’ll either have a health plan through an employer or have the money to invest privately in health care if you choose. Now you have the money to eat healthier foods, eat regularly and eat guilt-free.

There are many reasons to work and these 10 aren’t the entire list. Yes, there are people who don’t work and depend entirely on the generosity of others to live. They work in a very real sense too of course; some begging for handouts, others collecting beer cans and bottles to exchange. Some live on social assistance, dependent entirely on governments and taxpayers to decide their income. It is possible to go through one’s life and not ‘work’ in the traditional sense.

Work doesn’t mean you’re miserable for 7 or more hours a day. It is for many a rich, rewarding use of their time they appreciate.


What Is The Purpose Of Work Anyhow?

Most people who are unemployed are actively looking for work, while others may have stopped looking and returned to school or training to bolster their chances, and still others may have for various reasons stopped looking altogether and have settled in for a life relying on some form of charity / assistance. And for physical or mental health reasons, some who are unemployed may never work for pay or for stretches of time until they recover enough to again seek work.

What’s the purpose of work anyhow? And given that there’s only twenty-four hours in a day, why choose to spend seven to twelve of them apart from the ones we love most, many of us working in jobs we find unrewarding and difficult, sometimes even bad for our health? Curious.

Well for starters work accomplishes things that we feel need to get done in order to improve our lives. Without work, we wouldn’t have those nicely paved roads to drive on, the cars themselves wouldn’t be made, and the fuels used to power them wouldn’t be available. Without work we’d have no one to go to when we were ill, no teacher to learn from, no policeman to keep us safe as we sleep and the list goes on and on.

When we give our skills, expertise and knowledge in exchange for pay, we contribute to the betterment of the society in which we live. Hence the purpose of work is that work gives us purpose. We may feel genuinely better when we are working not only for the income that work provides, but because the work we do gives us purpose, allows us to feel useful and contributing once again. Often in talking with the unemployed, conversations don’t really revolve around money as much as they do around the loss of self-esteem and the loss of purpose. “I don’t know what to do” is heard more than, “I don’t know how to make money”.

One issue with someone experiencing short-term unemployment is that after being rejected by an employer, the message is interpreted as, “we value the skills and experience that someone else has more than we value what you would contribute”. While disheartening, there are other employers to appeal to. However, the message received by long-term unemployed job seekers from an accumulation of many rejections is, “your skills are now obsolete, your knowledge no longer relevant, your value has therefore diminished, and ultimately, we don’t value YOU”. Ouch.

And when out of work, instead of having a purpose in our daily lives that others highly value, it may seem that our biggest purpose for the day is reduced to getting dressed, watching a television show or cleaning the house. These events are not ones to proudly share with our family and friends, and so our lack of purpose rolls over into a lack of self-esteem. With low self-esteem, it becomes more commonplace to avoid public interaction where our lack of purpose tends to become magnified. Instead of being asked how we are and what is of interest to us, we get asked, “so what do you do for a living?”, a version of, “so what’s your purpose?”

Take an entry-level job posting at a fast-food establishment or retail store. How an unemployed person views that opportunity depends on many factors, including their previous jobs, but one key factor is how long the person has been unemployed. Many people take those jobs not because of the money, (which is generally minimum wage) but because the job itself provides them with a purpose; a reason to get up, dressed, out the door, and they feel wanted and ‘fit in again’ when working. They appear to the rest of us as a, “regular working person”; the key word there being, ‘regular’.

So why do some reject the entry-level job in retail or fast-foods as examples? Primarily I think because of their own perceptions of the job. While unemployed and in the privacy of their own apartments or homes, they can retreat from public scrutiny and deal with their loss of status and purpose alone. They worry that taking such a job only puts them on public display, and heaven forbid someone they know should see them or worse yet be served by them. Now they worry even more that news will spread and the message will be, “Poor so-and-so, I saw him or her down at the store and do you know he’s/she’s reduced to selling coffee and has to wear that ugly uniform?” What they are really discussing is the seemingly lowly purpose you may have sunk to.

However, work can be very uplifting and a boost to our self-esteem if we are in either a prestigious job, or the work is highly valued by the person doing it. A man I know takes great pride and pleasure in being a Dishwasher and so highly values the job that he is in fact in his dream job. Not high on my personal list of jobs I’d want, but it’s integral not to judge the job, nor by association the person performing it. Society needs all kinds of work performed, and the people who do the work should be valued not only for what they do, but for who they are first, and how they do the work second.

Just imagine the change you personally could bring about if today you said the to person serving you coffee, changing your oil, answering your phone call, etc., “Thank you! I appreciate you and the job you do!” Maybe you’d spark something wonderful.