It’s not uncommon to hear people talk about work like its all drudge and not much else. But popular studies reveal that nearly 87% of Americans actually enjoy most, if not all, aspects of their work. Part of the reason work may get a bad rap is that for many, people the typical 40-hour workweek is a thing of the past. Working longer hours and feeling pressured to stay connected via emails, texts and social media allows work to easily spill into evenings, weekends and even vacations and that can lead to burnout at worst and fatigue and stress at best.
Turns out there are some very important reasons why working is actually good for you—mentally, physically and socially. Here are 5 things your job may be providing for you:
A strong sense of structure. Going to work gives you a place to go and a reason for being there. For many, the typical work week has a definitive rhythm that brings with it the “gift” of Fridays. I have spoken with more than one retiree or person who has left the workplace who has expressed the “loss of their Fridays”. While retirees and those not currently working get the same days of the week as the rest of us, when you work, Fridays can signify a transition into fun or at least personal time to further enjoy non-work related aspects of life. Believe it or not, not working can take the edge off the excitement of the weekends.
Increased opportunities for challenges and risks. Positive opportunities for challenges and risks keep us thinking, engaged and “on our toes.” Work can provide a steady source of challenges, whether it is problem solving, working with the public (those who work with the public can attest to how challenging that can be), and coming up with new ideas to increase sales or learning new skills and processes. The old adage, “use it or lose it” applies to the wiring of our brains and keeping our minds sharp. The brain’s frontal lobe, the part that is responsible for executive thinking such as planning and consequences, is wired to be forward thinking and future oriented. So working can provide your brain with a steady diet of the “good stuff.”
A sense of accomplishment. When we work, at the end of the day, most of us can see some sort of results for our efforts or at least progress towards a goal. This provides a sense of self-satisfaction. As we experience more feelings of self-satisfaction and accomplishment, we will likely accomplish more and seek out opportunities for even more self-satisfaction because like attracts like. This is a very positive cycle that leads to confidence and achievement.
Social interaction. We are wired neurologically for connection with others. In fact, social interaction is strongly tied to happiness. For many people, work involves the opportunity for social interactions and relationships… co-workers, teams, customers, vendors and the public. These relationships all give us opportunities to interact and build connections. While you may not like some of the people you encounter during your work, chances are you like some of them. (If you don’t like anyone you encounter through your work, consider potentially sharpening your relationship or communication skills…just a thought!) Working with others gives us a chance to discuss the world at large, exchange ideas/opinions and yes, even engage in a little gossip (sometimes). Also, Work provides opportunities for competition and the exploring of new ideas with others. All of this helps to keep us engaged in life and with engagement comes positive energy.
Independence, opportunity and choice. While money doesn’t buy happiness, it does buy independence, opportunity and choice. Obviously everyone doesn’t have the same, but everyone has some. When you work, it provides you with a level of independence you are less likely to experience without having a means to earn your own money. When you have independence, you are freer to make individual choices that are right for you. The more interactions you have in life, the more opportunities you will likely encounter… opportunities can come in the form of relationships, experiences, education, and growth. An example is, its easier to get a job when you have a job so even if your current job isn’t right for you, simply by working, securing your next job will likely be easier. This is particularly important when you fall lower on the pay scale. When you don’t make much money, it can feel like you don’t have a lot of independence, opportunity or choice and its true, you may not have much, but you have some and focusing on what you do have will allow you to recognize potential that can go unnoticed if you are stuck in the feelings of lack.