Have you ever thought to yourself: I just wish I could quit my job and move to Europe.
Well, let me tell you something.
You are not the only one. A study conducted by the Association of Accounting Technicians found that the average British thinks about quitting their job 17 times in a year! Strangely enough, we even think about changing our careers 10 times a year. There is yet another disappointing finding by this study: each one of us is likely to go through 671 workplace-related arguments in our lifetime.
Start thinking of all the imaginary scenarios in your head right away! Funnily enough, it also mentions that you are expected to experience five office romances in the entirety of your work-life. Damn, so much for professionalism at the workplace!
Setting aside this delicate plate of facts based on research, I will head into the main course, i.e. the reason for droning on about willingly overworking myself. These days, it has become normal for many of us to work extra hours, have multiple jobs, or have every member of the family working — from the husband to the wife and even their 15-year-old kid.
We live in a gig economy because our wants have surpassed our needs. Materialism has won over minimalism (for some of us, at least, who find it difficult to tread on the lifestyle of a monk). The whole crazy concept of being an ‘influencer’ would sound like a joke to a 19th-century worker. They would probably think the term is the name for a new plague, for all we know. I wish it were any different.
I loathe mathematics, but let’s bring here some numbers:
There are 8,760 hours in a year. We sleep for around 2,555 hours in a year (assuming we sleep exactly seven hours daily times 365 days a year), which leaves us with 6,205 waking hours.
An average worker (who works 40 hours a week) spends 2,080 hours at their job, i.e. 1/3rd of their wake time (40 hours/week multiplied by 52 workweeks/year = number of hours spent at job/year). Similarly, an over-worker (who works around 70 hours a week) spends 3,120 hours at their job i.e. 1/2 of their wake time).
These numbers repulse me and these facts make it difficult for me to swallow (takes a huge gulp of water). Growing up, I definitely questioned the education system around the world, but never had I thought that the work system would be equally tantalising. Is there a solution?
A few countries around the world, such as the Netherlands, have implemented a four-day workweek, which has actually resulted in an increase in an individual’s productivity. The economy is booming and the masses are happy. One would wonder if the workweek has made the nation happier or is this because the Netherlands is an already well-off place to begin with to be able to afford the luxury of having shorter workweeks.
Contrarily, countries including Mexico, Turkey and South Africa continue to grind their workers more than they grind their coffee beans. On a completely different note, here are a few things I have learned during the four years of my work life in Canada:
In an ideal world, you would wake up with a smile to go to work. It would undoubtedly make you feel like you are bringing a positive changet to your community, or the planet at large. However, what I just described might as well be a utopia or a parallel universe. Very few people I know would wake up with a smile; excited about work. It’s funny how like children dread school, adults dread work.
I recall ranting about my seven-days-a-week worklife that I recently bestowed upon myself on social media. What can I say, I like to torture myself for the sins of shopping that I commit regularly. However, to my surprise, I had a few friends who related to me. They were working long hours, too!
One of whom was from India, who mentioned that despite over-working (55 hours a week, which was much lesser compared to his seniors), it can get difficult to make ends meet. There is also a major division on the basis of class (for a lack of a better word) based on your job status. There is barely any respect given to mazdurs or labourers. They could be an uneducated embroider who weaves magic with their thread but can be seen sleeping in a tattered house because they cannot utilise their skill to its full potential. Or they could be a house-maid who cooks the most delicious, divine meal, yet, remains an undiscovered chef. If you are not an engineer, a doctor or a lawyer, you are a black sheep in your family.
I remember my mother and grandfather teaching me basic morals as a kid. On different occasions, I had them teach me to treat everyone with the same amount of respect, be it be a 5-year-old or a 50-year-old, a beggar or a billionaire. They all should be the same in your eyes and they all deserve respect as humans. That, of course, stayed with me for life. I wish everyone followed that moral code. I was happy to find that Canada does not have a class system, well, not one that is as strict as the one back home (this is a whole other rant about caste, which I do not want to get into right now).
One of my friends from my college here in Canada is working two jobs as well (70 hours a week), just to make ends meet and survive by herself as an immigrant. And I know it is the same story for a majority of the immigrants who dream of a life that assures them safety with a solid standard of living. Most of us dream of settling abroad and companies love us for our work ethic because we are desperate to find a home in a foreign world, in turn, creating a new batch of diasporic minorities.
In the end, the most shattering discovery was acknowledging the fact that my very own mother was overworking herself as a teacher, to ensure I succeed in life. She was easily putting in 75 hours a week; teaching is her passion, but she feels that the time she devoted to it is draining her mentally, which I can assume is true for doctors and many other professionals.
I have come to realise that most of us go to work for the sake of money and to provide for our clan. I mean, of course, why else would humans spend time away from their loved ones, family and nature? But in the end, it makes you question: is it even worth it? Is it the correct system or does it need to be revamped to one similar to the Netherlands?