Those who do not think that employment is systemic slavery are either blind or employed.
-Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Employment can be a very life-draining activity. Far too many people give their lives to their corporate jobs without even really considering what they are receiving for all of their time and mental energy. Real wages have not been keeping track with the boom in productivity since about 1973. There are many possible reasons for this including imprecise data, America’s weak labor laws, pressure from Wall Street to serve the shareholder rather than other stakeholders, and corporate interests working to drum up uncertainty in their workers to foster a sense of dependence on their job. This piece is meant to address the latter issue and encourage feelings of confidence and independence.
I have written previously about the nature of work, and how we can alter our relationship with our work, but to summarize: we are told to be good little boys and girls our whole life and not much changes in most workplaces where we are encouraged to get in line and follow the rules. Our lives feel generally out of our control until we start to question established norms and rules. Challenging these norms can give us confidence and allow us to break free from what can be an enslaving relationship. One of the most important norms to question is that of going into debt and spending all of your income which ensures you will need your corporate job for years to come. This is not to say that corporate work is not a viable life path. For many people, it will be their only source of income for their entire lives, but they can still change their relationship with their jobs and improve their mindsets. So here are the reasons why you deserve better from your corporate job:
You Think About Your Job Outside of Work
If you are consistently worrying about your job outside of work, you probably have an unhealthy relationship with your work. Remember, few things are ever as important as they seem in the moment. That document with the Friday night deadline may not even be looked at until the middle of next week. Adopting an attitude of careless confidence can give the best results. Caring too much can even go so far as to hurt job performance because of the stress and frustration that it induces. Now, I am not the best at not caring, but I have improved my relationship with my work in the past by telling myself that my work is not that important and remembering that few, if any, people will actually notice the difference between a perfect job and a good job.
Not caring as much doesn’t mean doing a bad job and getting fired; it simply means caring a little bit more about yourself and a little bit less about your job. The truth is if you start respecting yourself a little bit more, your boss and colleagues are likely to respect you more as well. This is more important than spending your Friday night doing the “perfect” job which may or may not be noticed by your boss. The truth is bosses, depending on the situation and the boss, may have no idea how you are doing in terms of individual performance. Instead, they are likely to judge you (and your performance) by how much they like you and respect you. That is why treating yourself with care and respect will always be more important.
Now, if you are in a job where you have no option but to care a lot, I would hope that you either love your job, are very well compensated for your extra time and care, or are able to quit.
Your Job is Like a Chronic Disease
Even if you do your best to find the right amount of caring, there is still a good chance your job is making you physically unwell. Sitting all day can wreak havoc on your posture and overall health; as many have said, “sitting is the new smoking.” Staring at a close computer screen with a keyboard and mouse in your hands each have their potential negatives.
Aside from quitting your job, the most important thing is to move around as much as possible. Even if you sit with poor posture, if you stand up and walk around every thirty minutes you can still salvage your posture. I know some people are forced to sit with terrible posture due to a poor working space. I was forced into this very situation myself, but if you have the chance, get a standing desk. A standing desk is helpful not only because you are not sitting, but it encourages you to move and change positions to reduce fatigue. If your company cares about it’s employees at all, it should be willing to provide you with a standing desk. If you are too afraid to ask, you can always relish in those weird looks when you bring your own.
Aside from movement and standing, make sure you are looking away from your screen into the distance as much as possible to minimize the damage to your eyes, even if it means you have to stand up and talk to someone. Finally, focus on your posture as often as you can: shoulders back and down as much as possible, head back a little with the top of your screen at eye level, torso straight with lightly flexed abs, glutes moderately flexed. Movement compliments good posture because it reminds you to reorient your posture which naturally deteriorates after extended periods of sitting, so, to reiterate, keep moving.
You Don’t Have Enough Time for the Things You Love
Depending on the type of work you do, you may only do three hours or less of productive hours of work each day. This doesn’t automatically mean everyone is lazy, simply that the human mind can only concentrate optimally on mentally difficult work for so many each hours each day. The rest of the time is mostly wasted due to the outdated schedule of eight plus hours at work, a norm for many office workers. Even worse, a mentally demanding job will not only take your time, but it can take the wind out of your sails for your mentally demanding hobby. The best you can do to combat this, aside from quitting, is to wake up early so your best mental work goes to your hobby (side gig, etc) and to do you best to spend as little time in the office as possible without upsetting your colleagues. Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week, goes even further to encourage you to get out of the office completely in order to maximize productivity and spend fewer hours wasted at work.
Working overtime makes magnifies all the problems discussed previously because to churning out mediocre work in a time crunch can be mentally, emotionally, and physically draining. If you are required to work overtime, make sure you are are being compensated for it. Don’t think about it in terms of a single hourly wage. The more hours you work the more valuable the rest of your time becomes, so you should require more from your company if you are working overtime.
You may be thinking: sure, you have provided some solutions, but it sounds like you think I should quit my job. I know for many people that isn’t an option which is why I have provided some alternatives to get by, but I would encourage you to give it a try if you get the chance. The only way I would recommend becoming a servant to corporate life is if you are very highly compensated or have a reasonable expectation of very high compensation in the future. If you have an employer that treats you well and have the chance to retire before 40, then it could be a good idea to embrace corporate life, trading freedom now for freedom later.
If this is not the case, then I would encourage you to at least explore other options which may take the form of a side gig or simply quitting your job with a decent amount of savings to see if you can swim. Sure, there will always be risks, but freedom is the sweetest of rewards.