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Labor Day 2022: Working Smart & Hard
The workforce has changed, the work needing to be done has not.
On this 5th of September, 2022, we celebrate Labor Day after what has been one of the wildest periods of time in our developed workforce history.
COVID-19 and Post-COVID-19 fallout had people dealing with potentially dying of a global plague, spending more time at home than ever before, and/or seeing how quick companies cut out the people at the bottom of the totem pole to preserve the bottom dollar; the results of this have been people questioning their return to offices, long hours logged, and whether spending more time with a boss than a spouse was really “making it” in life.
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This reprioritization of life values has the family unit ranked above a profession for the first time in a long time, possibly ever in the 21st century.
To work hard at your craft is something every person should do; there’s nothing new about this concept of “be your best”. Man or woman, if you are working, then you should be giving your max effort at your job; here’s the catch to that advice, and it’s where most get it wrong-
Your job is a part of your life, not the point of it.
You should be the best damn whateveryouare for the hours you are expected at the job, but when it’s time to go, it’s time to go. The bragging about working extra hours without extra pay, coming in on holidays or weekends, and doing more than you’re paid to do are things I see flexed in person and online; this runs from strangers to my friends and family. The concept of living for your job is so foreign to me that it may as well be another language, yet it runs rampant - or at least it did. The closest I can get to understanding this mindset is with my time in the Military as well as my time (present-day) running the Fraternity of Excellence; both of those served a mission that is central to my core as a man.
The Working Environment Has Evolved
Your job is meant to pay you a wage that is deserving of the time and effort given on a task needing to be done. We still, in 2022, have people putting in extra reps without extra pay and wearing it as a badge of honor; this glorified servitude has run rampant for centuries,
In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages.
There are people who’d tolerated dangerous and disrespectful environments in the past because they either had nowhere else to go or they felt this is what a man or woman was supposed to do, work to provide for a family and do so without complaint.
People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.
There’s nothing glorious about abuse, long commutes, stifled offices, wasted time, or toxic environments. The idea that getting home from work should lead to you sitting down, cracking open a beer, and shutting your brain down shows how acceptable it has become to trudge through a miserable existence for the sake of a job. In a healthy society, men and women would come home charged up, ready to pursue hobbies, enjoy the company of friends and family, and look forward to returning to their profession the next day.
Our working environment died when factories and industries took men from the fields and waterways.
From the moment men were placed into closed buildings to perform redundant tasks, the spirit of the working man began to die and remain dormant until China awoke the sleeping dragon. COVID snapped some minds out of it, and from the looks of mainstream media, the masters want their bodies back on the plantation, but not all have returned.
Your Job Is The Tool - Not You
When I bring attention to my position that jobs are meant to be used, not workers, I am met with resistance that looks something like, “Zac, you’re advocating for laziness”.
This is an interesting assertion as I believe that even a Janitor or Window Cleaner should be the best damn Janitor or Window Cleaner they can be, laziness has no place in the execution of one’s craft, and if anything, I’m more overbearing and less tolerant of mediocre effort than most.
No, what I advocate for is not laziness; it is in maintaining healthy boundaries and expectations. I hold companies responsible for offering environments that will attract the best employees, not the other way around. I view businesses as lucky to have a worker, not a worker lucky to have a job. This minor reframe is the difference between being respected and being taken advantage of, jobs will chew you up and manipulate you if they believe they can. I think you should make it clear to your job that you are there to be your best, but you will not tolerate anything less than every ounce of respect and equal treatment the rest of the company receives, regardless of pay grade and position.
Think of how broken this system is and why it punishes performance and any sense of desire to be better: If you are paid a salary to get 5 things done in your 8-hour work day, and you become efficient enough to complete those 5 things within 3 hours, do you think your job should pay you more to do more with the remaining time or should they pay you less as they do not need you for that amount of time any longer as the 5 things were what they needed?
Neither are the norm: Most people will get to where they complete 5 things in 3 hours and then are tasked with another 7, so now they complete 10 things in their 8 hours, and the pay remains what it was; except when you don’t get the 10 done, you’re now considered slacking. This is the norm for many, and nobody questions it; in fact, people are far more likely to challenge your “entitlement” to want compensation or consider leaving your employer at all.
Your job is just a job, it’s a tool to pay bills, not necessarily your calling in life, though there are many who lay claim to that bragging right.
Advancements Have Set Workers Back
For many who work in an office, every time they check their phone for a text, they also glance at their email for work. People are “on” all of the time, and they wonder why they aren’t happy, even after making money. The reason is that you aren’t making time to enjoy the day-to-day moments that you’ve worked so hard for. In essence, you don’t know how to “not work” as everything is a moment designed to lead you to the next tasking, even when you’re home.
No days off
Zero time to lift or read
Too busy to paint or write
You’ll rest when you’re dead
Life is about working and building - always on…
What’s the solution to breaking free from the invisible chains, unspoken expectations, and silent suffering of 1,000 cessations at the office or job site?
Flipping the table over and playing a new game.
The only way for you to change the direction your life is headed and the continuous redundancy without progress at the job is to fucking change something within you. Stop taking the abuse, stop normalizing giving your time away, and stop letting others shame you for looking to do things differently, the world lost its mind, and we’re here to pick up the pieces, so pick them up and start putting them back where you want them; you don’t get this opportunity too many times so take your shot while you can and change the standard operating procedure between you and your employer.
Labor Day is a great holiday that gives us a reason to think about our efforts and the commitments we’ve made and met over the year. The truth is, work happens to be a beautiful thing. In fact, in writing this, I am “working” as this is my job, but I had such a great day with my family during the day today that I look forward to being able to sit and connect with my readers.
Give yourself that same gift, treat your job like a job, and then enjoy yourself when you aren’t at work - it’s in that work/life out of balance - a balance that we find the answer to how we best navigate all of this and what it means to be a worker in the year 2022.
- Zac Small