Posts Tagged ‘Life’

This pandemic may have changed the idea of “Work” entirely, and it raises a set of fundamental questions that so far don’t have any clear answers.

I’ve read that among Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1994) and GenZers (born from 1997 onward) almost 90% do not want to return to their offices. States that have ended their supplemental unemployment subsidies this summer have not seen an uptick in job numbers. Everyone has a theory about why this is happening; is it due to childcare difficulties? Are we turning into a country of lazy young people?

Looking at this from a psychological angle and not as a purely economic conundrum, I sent my brother Dr Jim this essay – “Hard Work is not Inherently Virtuous,” by Elizabeth Spiers…or why do we need to feel productive in the first place? It’s asking a question I first heard asked by a Duke student at the Bride’s graduation:

“Do you want to live to work or work to live?”

He was saying he didn’t feel the need to enjoy his work so much, as long as it afforded him the time to do the things he really liked, like fishing and off-road racing. I remember Bob’s struggle with this friend’s answer because, in so many ways, being a physician was an integral part of his identity. And he always said he loved his work, which is probably why our first Millennial ended up in Med School. ER work can be like piloting an aircraft; hours of sutures and runny noses interspersed with a multiple vehicle car crash.

Not everyone has the temperament for that kind of adrenaline rush.

Then there’s the soul-crushing commute to work. Bob always liked the 30 minute drive home because he could decompress for half an hour before walking back into family life. In fact, he’d often listen to Beethoven in the car. But what if your commute was longer? What if it was an hour or an hour and a half one way?

Working from home gave me two hours back a day, which I was thrilled about because to borrow from this excellent Ed Zitron column, I think of commuting as soft wage theft. I don’t recommend inducing a deadly global pandemic as a lifehack to get out of it, but when I got that extra time as a function of one, I made a point of not immediately using it to do even more work. Instead I used it to write more in the mornings (for my own benefit, not for work reasons), read more, and watch dumb cartoons I loathe with my kid while I drink my morning coffee and he explains Minecraft arcana to me. The irony is that it’s made me enjoy work more because I don’t feel like I’m giving all of my waking hours to other people. I get to hoard more for myself.”


This is why the Bride lives just ten minutes away from her hospital, and why the Rocker’s studio will be a part of his home. Aunt Kiki has been stuck working from home during the pandemic. She is a designer with a good sized firm, and she told me she misses the collaboration and creative stimulation of her office space. California is slowly opening back up as immunizations rise, so maybe by the time they move into their new house she’ll be able to return to her company. I was trying to imagine designing a hotel or whatever on a Zoom call, although I did “attend” a Bar Mitzvah remotely!

But what if you just don’t find your work very gratifying? What if you were for instance, pre-Pandemic sitting in a cubicle doing data entry? We’re talking about white collar jobs as opposed to factory work… or Amazon warehouse work. One of the Bride’s friends is a single mom and she works for a big insurance company, she had to juggle her child’s remote learning with her own deadlines. Will some of this work-home tension end when our little ones can be vaccinated and schools open next month?

“The lack of imagination is disheartening. The office may be an oasis when home is dreary and claustrophobic, (or vice versa) but when schools, cafes and co-working spaces open, the world will be different.” Younger people may be better prepared to handle a hybrid future encompassing WFH, after all they are digital natives.

It’s like the L’il Pumpkin said, “Why write a letter when you can make a Clip?” IF you love what you do, if your work brings you joy, then it’s never work right? That’s why I can’t fault these “TikTokers” and “Influencers” for starting trends and cashing in. The border between work and home is rapidly becoming more amorphous, and like most of my generation, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. Here is Bob relaxing on vacation, and he’s not reading a medical journal!

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