Do We Like To Work?

In her blog recently, Kimberly Weisul noted a study that found that Europeans are happier when they work less and have more leisure, but Americans aren’t. There are many reasons Americans may be happier working more — perhaps the returns are better here, or we associate more hours with success. Or we’re less enamored with leisure time. People spend the biggest chunk of their leisure hours parked in front of the TV, which is usually associated with less happiness.

I’m always fascinated by studies looking at people’s attitudes toward work. So much depends on how you ask the question. Most of us say we are not in our dream jobs. But that doesn’t mean we dislike work itself. The majority of us also claim we’d keep working if we won the lottery (though perhaps not in our current jobs). Most of us are pretty satisfied with our lives, and the working component is a fairly large part of that. On the other hand, many people express a desire to change jobs at any given point.

So who knows what to think? I guess a larger question is why do people (like me) always seek a magic statistic that sums up how millions of people feel about a varied concept? I imagine some jobs are awesome, and some people are just going for a paycheck. Some people prefer work to other things (like watching TV) and others are vice versa. The trouble is when we try to draw conclusions about overall life based on one particular study — because it probably won’t tell the whole picture.

7 thoughts on “Do We Like To Work?

  1. I loved teaching before I had my kids. I enjoyed my time off as well, focusing on my family, and barely missed teaching. Now I look forward to going back, after nine years. I had always said I would still teach, if I won the lottery and I spent a lot of time at it, more than was expected.

    That said, I love my leisure time as well, and like to fill it with fun and enjoyable activities, so I will be prioritizing differently when I return.
    I never preferred TV, but fell into a pattern after a while. It took 168 Hours to get me out of the rut I was in. I am much happier filling the time with things I thought I “didn’t have time” for.
    Lately, I have been running into a lot people who have been saying they don’t have time for this or that and I want to give them a speech, but maybe i should be carrying a stack of your books to hand out instead.

    1. @Denise – I heartily endorse the idea of walking around with a stack of my books to give away! (Tell them the paperback is out May 31… it’s cheaper and lighter). And I don’t think there is any contradiction between loving our work, and loving family time and leisure too. There are 168 hours in a week, and plenty of time for all three priorities.

  2. I think most people enjoy work not necessarily for the actual “work” -unless it is something really rewarding like Denise’s teaching, but the social aspect of going to work.

    Like you say most of us spent many of our leisure hours sitting in front on a television screen but by going out to work we interact and meet with others.

    I know that’s what keeps me sane at times.

    1. @Magssno- Yes, the social aspect of work is often under-appreciated, and definitely something people miss when they retire. Work can give structure and purpose to our days. Ideally, it is something rewarding too. Then you’ve hit the trifecta…

  3. There’s your next book… What are we doing with our leisure time? And how can we get the most out of it? Clearly, this book will require extensive European travel.

  4. it is a historical choice to spend more time working than in leisure. the foundation of this nation is basically that, hard work less time for sin. success is not only success, it is a way to show that we are the chosen ones by God or fate. this behavior has a purpose, create wealth without shame, and that is engraved in the nation genes or as we should call it, the ‘American moral principles’

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