One of the first questions a new acquaintance will ask you is, “What type of work do you do?”  Do you define yourself by what you do for a living?  Are you a salesperson, teacher or office administrator – or do you work in sales, teach or run an office?  Who are you when you’re not working?

Why Do We Work So Hard?

A Statistics Canada survey reported that one third of Canadians between the ages of 25 and 44 consider themselves workaholics.  It’s perceived as a necessity.  The rise of dual income families has as much to do with financial need as it has with choice.  A dual income household is not a guarantee of wealth.  Many working parents do not earn enough to hire a nanny or finance professional daycare for their children.  The earnings of a single person – or the single breadwinner of a family – has not kept up with inflation.  In fact it has declined.

Another reason for feverish work schedules is job insecurity.  Intense competition leads to longer hours and higher levels of stress when employees strive to distinguish themselves from one another, either in the eyes of their employer or potential clients.

People who work reduced hours pay a huge penalty in career terms.  It’s taken as a negative signal about their commitment to their employer.

Workaholics are less likely to seek personal fulfillment in their work.  Instead they come to see work simply as a way to pay the bills, a grind they must endure each day, sometimes settling for the first well-paying (albeit miserable) job that comes along.

Job Satisfaction

Given that we spend half of our daylight hours at work (and more like ¾ in the winter) it’s astounding that only about half of us get personal satisfaction from work activities.  If this is true, think of the huge untapped potential in the Canadian workforce that could be unleashed in the form of energy, commitment and productivity if more employers could figure out better ways to motivate their workers.

Many workers are looking to embrace ways of earning money that allow the most freedom and control such as self-employment and working for smaller businesses.

Technology is now allowing many of us to do what we have wanted to do for some time – be mobile, independent and have control over our own schedule and workspaces.  More people work from home.

Personal fulfillment on the job is seen as desirable as, or more so, than salary alone.  Many workers increasingly desire certain rewards including freedom to dress as they wish, take breaks when they wish, take regular vacations and work independently in a manner they find most comfortable.

To what degree do you feel your identity is symbolized by your employment?  Or do you identify more with activities outside of work such as family, religious institution or volunteer work for meaning in your life?

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