Why Bother Going To Work?

You know the feeling. It’s been a rough week at work. Emails have backed up. The to-do list is getting longer and not shorter. The weather is too hot, and trains don’t have air conditioning and once more you are missing your children’s birthdays and school sport’s day. Again, and not for the first time this year you ask the same question: Why Bother Going To Work?

As Maslow, in his hierarchy of needs asks, once the universal need to earn enough money to support you and your family is addressed, what next?

Last year YouGov, the UK survey firm asked the question: Would you rather have a job you hate that pays well or a job you love that pays poorly?  (https://yougov.co.uk/news/2017/08/03/love-wage-balance-how-many-brits-their-job-and-the/ ). Quoting from their results they say:

Overwhelmingly the British plumped for passion over pay, with approaching two thirds (64%) saying they’d rather have a poorly paid job they loved compared to just 18% who’d prefer a well-paid job they hated.

Given that we spend so much of our lives earning a living, it is good to see that the majority of British workers feel positive about their employment. Close to half (45%) say that they like their job, while a lucky 17% have found jobs that they love. A further one in five (20%) neither like nor dislike their job.

As for the original conundrum, it turns out only 5% of Brits find themselves in one of the two scenarios: 3% are in poorly paid jobs the love, while 2% are in well-paid jobs they hate.

That’s encouraging but doesn’t fit with my experience as a coach and mentor of senior executives. Maybe I was working with a self-selecting group that needed support. Maybe they were already concerned about the balance in their life which was why they sought external support, but there are a significant number of well paid senior executives who are questioning why they do it.

We know that for many lower-paid the very direct link between work and survival persists. However, others have much more than they need and the surplus is used to own, enjoy and consume a better life.

A frequent observation I heard in mentoring meetings was that it is was great having the money but there was never any time to spend it as a family. So, do senior executives, normally by definition the higher paid in our society have time to spend this extra and surplus income?

A recent study outlined in the Harvard Business Review (reported by Forbes) uncovered how key executives handle their time to remain productive and efficient. The researchers, Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria, tracked 27 CEOs over a three-month period.

According to the report, on average CEOs worked an average of 9.7 hours per weekday and put in an additional four hours per weekend day. Even on vacation days, the leaders worked nearly two and a half hours per day. In total, they worked an average of 62.5 hours per week.

However, a close look at the YouGov data shows a slightly different perspective. 30% of the very well or fairly well paid were also in the group who were ambivalent to hating their jobs. This is the group I am most interested in as I suspect it includes many senior staff.

The more senior we become in an organisation, so the responsibilities add up. Most of those I have met take their responsibilities to shareholders and staff very seriously often to the detriment of their personal lives. It is often the responsibility that drives them on and not their remuneration or job satisfaction.

In my last essay, I described the issues and concerns I had when I gave up my job, and therefore income to do something that I not only enjoyed but believed in. That was my experience and the circumstances are hugely complex and unique for everybody.

However, it is a question that you should all ask yourself: why do you carry on going to work?