Sorry, Mick and Keith, I just had to mess with your song title for this post. Labor Day is all about celebrating the American worker so I thought I would check out some stats about satisfaction in the workplace. Here’s an eye opener:
There are 168 hours in a week, 52 weeks in a year, and usually at least 35 years in a normal person’s working life. Given that most people work “40 hours” (that’s on the low end if we’re lucky), that means we spend nearly 25% of our adult lives (40 hours a week, 2080 hours a year, and 72,800 hours in our lifetime) at work. You subtract a modest 6 hours of sleep per night (if we’re lucky), and it turns out that roughly 40% of our waking hours are spent with our jobs.
Spending 40% of your waking hours in a job you don’t like, with an employer who doesn’t treat you well or around co-workers you can’t stand can lead to a very miserable and unhealthy life. I feel fortunate to have landed in the supermarket business, it wasn’t something I planned to do and while it has had its rough moments, I can honestly say I love what I do, my employer treats me well and I work with a great bunch of people. I have had employees who hate their job and make it their personal mission to make everyone around them miserable. I used to spend 90% of my time dealing with those 10% who will never be happy. I wish I had figured out many years ago that you can give people the tools to be happy, but it is up to them to make it happen.
I once had a job that I greatly disliked. The work itself was fine, but the management/union issues were just horribly stressful for me. I lived for the weekend but by Sunday afternoon the headaches would set in and I would dread the arrival of Monday. I worked there for 6 years so when my husband’s career moved us to another city, I took the opportunity to make a change. I just couldn’t bear the thought of doing something I hated for the rest of my life as it seriously impacted my health and my family. Some people thrived at this company but it just wasn’t for me. Others stayed there for 20+ years and hated every minute of it but the money and benefits were good so they stayed. Those are the choices we make.
I recently saw a poll about which professions are the happiest and it appears the most satisfied workers are those who are in a creative field or helping others such as firefighters and clergy. Generally, people in low skill jobs that involve customer service and serving food are the unhappiest. Bartenders, clothing and home furnishing salespeople, cashiers and meatpackers all rank low on the satisfaction scale. This makes me laugh because I am in a customer service job, I cashier, and I sell food!
Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams writes that there is a limit to how happy anyone can be at work. Many people trapped in lousy jobs rationalize that they’re satisfied so they don’t have to admit they probably couldn’t get a better job, he said.
“When the economy was good, everybody was happier, no matter what the job was,” he said. “The fact you can’t change jobs in this economy makes you think your current job is worse.”
My motto: Change your job or change your attitude. I know changing jobs isn’t easy these days so make the best of what you’ve got. Look at the positives, improve the negatives, and avoid people who want to keep you down. Put some fun into your workday. If you feel really stressed out, try exercising. Working up a good sweat will burn off some of those stress hormones!
Happy Labor Day!