The Meaning of Work .
Freud said that love and work were essential for people’s well-being. While I don’t always find a lot to agree with in this doctor’s writings, on this point I concur.
Work is sometimes portrayed as the opposite of play, or of relaxation and rest. While work is not the same as these other types of activity (or “occupations”, as we OTs like to say), neither is it their antithesis. Work is productive activity that results in a desirable outcome.
Some forms of work are taxing, with little or no intrinsic reward, such as repetitively putting parts together in an assembly line might be to many people. However, there can still be satisfaction in a job well done, in contributing to the efforts of a work team, or in earning money for one’s family.
The best kind of work is that which has meaning for the worker. It results in a product or outcome that is, in and of itself, valuable to the worker and the community. Serving delicious food to patrons in a restaurant, or fixing the engine of a car so that it runs efficiently and safely, or any task that produces personally valued outcomes can fit this category. The self-respect and feeling of purpose are benefits that go beyond the paycheck.
The very best kind of work is that which is both productive and intrinsically rewarding… as we get into this zone, the occupation in question shares certain features with “play”, and occupation that has been defined as activities that are performed for their own sake, just because they are fun. Of course, work is work; it must be done at a certain level of efficiency and quality, and is not just done at the the whimsy of the worker. But some of us are lucky enough to find ourselves enjoying the tasks for their own sake, even though we are required to do them.
Work is a big part of adults’ sense of self, as do-ers, providers for our families, colleagues, helpers, creators, etc. We define and compare ourselves and others according to our work roles and titles. People need to work in order to feel complete.
Workplaces are communities that provide friendships, opportunities to work for the greater good, structure, and purpose for one’s days and nights. Work provides the contrast that is needed if one is to fully enjoy leisure and rest time.
Everyone needs and should have opportunities to engage in fulfilling and challenging work. Everyone. There is plenty that needs to be done in this world, and everyone is welcome to pitch in.