When was the last time you spoke in depth about your job? Apart from a brief reference to the latest office gossip, what was on the lunch menu, or the fact that the photocopier broke down AGAIN, do you ever talk to your nearest and dearest about the details that fill so many hours of your life? The minutae of a person's work day are articulately recorded and debated in terms of beauty, creativity and something to be proud of, in Alain de Botton's book, "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work". This book was inspired when the author noted the passion of a few ship spotters who watch industrial ships pass by on their journey, and were intrigued enough by the size and design of such a transporter, that they were willing to spend their free time sitting in the rain with nothing but a thermos for company.
Work is often dismissed as something to get out of the way, something to escape, something to complain about. Yet in these days of growing unemployment and redundancy, perhaps the value of work should be changing. There are always those who are admired for their achievements, be they exceptionally rich or famous, but what of the ordinary everyday worker, the smallest cogs that contribute to the wheel of life?
When I worked in HR, one of my duties was to do a "desk audit". If someone requested an upgrade, part of the process was to sit with the person at their desk while they showed me exactly what they did all day, demonstrating with documents, samples of their work and talking me through their duties. I got the feeling they loved being able to do this and surely never had another opportunity to chat as much about themselves! I found it far more interesting than you might credit. I particularly remember the Chief Editor at WHO, who was fascinated by her job screening every word, phrase and paragraph in great tomes of medical health jargon. I could not imagine a less stimulating job but she adored it!
Alain de Botton has been brave in opening up a new world of interest for his readers. As he points out, hundreds of years ago people knew exactly who made everything they owned and where it came from, but nowadays such is the complexity and the weaving journey of materials in our world, you would be hard pressed to say where anything in your house was made and by whom! It's interesting to stop and think about the work that goes on behind us sometimes. What do you think?