Time for a new image! Why we should rethink the term “work”

Work… it’s that annoying thing we have to do every day and absolutely hate, right? But, wait a minute… isn’t it perhaps that fulfilling activity that we are fully absorbed in and sometimes can hardly believe that we are also making money doing it? I think it’s time to rethink the word. And, while we’re at it, we should continue with the word “success”.

In my own professional environment and on social media, I’ve noticed one thing in recent years: Although burnout is no longer a foreign word, overwork is still portrayed as something glamorous. Many people wear their exhaustion in front of them like a badge of bravery. It’s the same way when they come into the office sick. They expect to be “admired” for how strong and hardworking they are, for going to work despite being sick.

Why expect admiration for something that is just stupid?

No one will thank you for ruining their health over a job. You can always find a new job – your health is much more valuable. And so is everyone else’s, which you’re putting at risk by showing up to work sniffling.

But even if you’re in great health, overwork isn’t glamorous. Burnout is not “chic” or in any other way something to be proud of.

Is this perhaps where the bad image of work comes from?

Do people automatically assume it’s something that leads to illness and exhaustion? Because it is not that at all. The word “work” has a very negative connotation for many: Work is exhausting, annoying, tiresome, boring. But work is so much more. Writing this article is also a kind of work, but this activity gives me great pleasure, fulfills me and recharges my energy reserves instead of depleting them.

Reflections on “laziness”

The same people who think overwork is glamorous see people as lazy who just don’t, or perhaps even want to work less. “Working less,” however, does not necessarily automatically mean being lazy. Many have had a rethink as a result of the pandemic and have redefined their priorities. Perhaps they want to devote more time to their family, find time for a real hobby, or do volunteer work. There’s nothing wrong with that! They just want more time to do things that make them happy, and sometimes that’s something productive. Would they still be considered lazy if they got paid for it?

And anyway – what is actually considered “lazy”? A leisurely day on the sofa, a marathon series, extended reading in a riveting novel? All of these things are sometimes simply necessary to recharge the batteries.

Sometimes the most productive decision you can make is simply NOT to be productive – so you can hit the ground running and give it your all afterwards.

Someone who takes breaks more often is certainly more productive overall than someone who just keeps going.

Who is successful?

Success isn’t what it used to be either. Having a stellar career used to be totally desirable – less so these days, due to the economic climate and a rethinking of what’s really important in life.

So who is successful? The top manager with the prestigious job, but who doesn’t see her children at all, has no hobbies and is so exhausted on weekends that she can only sleep instead of doing something nice? Or the minimum wage employee who no one envies for his job, but who has time and energy for fulfilling hobbies and creates precious memories with family and friends on the weekends?

So maybe we should strive for happiness rather than success – because that’s far more sustainable and individual than an externally determined concept of success.

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