Travails of Working

working in London

Are you working right now? Are you stealing glances at the screen and popping up some spreadsheet whenever a manager walks by? I know you. I’ve been you. And I managed to escape that trap. I entered the freelance lifestyle and loved the personal freedom returned to me. But it meant some big compromises on lifestyle. To make it feasible I returned home to live with my parents. The long drive from my friends resulted in missing out of the daily impromptu activities (e.g. wine fuelled socials at the local). It also meant a significant pay cut. But was it worth it?

Yes. It was worth every moment.

Before I go any further I will let you know that I rarely enjoyed working in the conventional sense. Work in itself can provide a sense of completion and success. That “to-do” item can be ticked off that list. But otherwise it is kind of…bleugh.

So instead I chose insignificant income and a financial status that doesn’t really cut it when your friends are corporate high flyers. Wouldn’t it be easier to just be like them?

I’ve wondered that. And I’ve tried that life on for size. Once I even worked at one of those BIG consulting firms. For several months in 2009 I sat next to the HR Director for Northern Europe. She was pretty awesome. Short, smart, funny and impeccably groomed. I looked up to her. And because I sat next to her I witnessed glee from the long time employees pouring over the graduate intake. Those twenty-somethings had impressive resumes and winning smiles. And awaiting them were colleagues who expressly said they couldn’t wait to break them, and meant it. Sure those young souls would be earning many, many thousands of pounds more than most of us, but within twelve months stress and sleep deprivation would make their mark on their faces.

business life

In all those months I sat next to her I never asked her for a better opportunity in that famous company, because for me, the money to survive would come at the price of my happiness which was already suffering in that competitive environment. It felt as grey in there as the rows of desks looked; the clear desk policy successfully stripped any spark of individuality.

Working is amazing when you get the opportunity to really help someone or pull of a creative project, but too often I feel like we are forced to do meaningless exercises for no real reason. Servicing the whims of managers who care little about you doesn’t cut it. There has to be better way to commit fifty years of life. If we re-engineered the economy, spread the wealth around more evenly so everyone was off the survival treadmill, we could design a lifestyle where people spent more time with family, friends and pursuing activities that enriched our lives. Surely this is a global phenomenon and not just my personal feeling. Either way, I hope that you live the life that brings you the most contentment.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, Alain de Boton