Does anyone remember the ‘Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin’? If you don’t, it was a 1970s TV series that chronicled the frustrations of work and life felt by Reggie, who eventually, tired of corporate life, faked his own death, only to miss the life he had lead and come back to it by pretending to be someone else.
There is a section in one episode in which, talking to his cat, Reggie chronicles his day; a day that is the same as every other day. It went a little like this (made a little more modern, of course).
Go to toilet
Check twitter feed
Take a shower
Get in the car
Drive to work
Park in the car park
Walk into the office
Power up the laptop and insert the password
Make a cup of coffee
Go to meetings
Do more emails
Check twitter feed
Have another cup of coffee
Do conference calls
More calls, and emails, and meetings, and emails, and calls, and meetings
Have a cup of coffee
Get to 5pm.
Turn off laptop
Get in car
Get out of car
Check emails that have arrived since I left the office
And so on.
I read an article recently that talked about making work enjoyable. It argued that one of the key ways in which work is made meaningful is that it is also enjoyable.
We talk all the time, in HR, about employee engagement. It is holiest of grails. Meaningful work, enjoyable work, engaging work.
But do you know what? Some people hate work.
For some people the working day is just something to be borne. Get up, go to work, get through the day, get paid. And I don’t just mean people that haven’t found the right niche. People who haven’t got the right leadership. People who haven’t got a voice. People who the company haven’t reached yet.
Some jobs are bloody tough.
Some jobs are bloody boring.
Some jobs don’t allow for people to make their own decisions or determine how their day goes, or even when they go to the toilet.
Some jobs are done in unpleasant working environments.
Some jobs are really badly rewarded.
Some jobs are so far from meaningful, engaging, autonomous, enjoyable as to make meaningful, enjoyable work a largely irrelevant concept.
Where are these people in the debate, today? We can talk about changing, disrupting, evolving, challenging work and working environments all we like. But it is a much easier debate in some areas, industries, companies, job types, than others. So much of what I read or hear discussed about improving work, is exciting, interesting, shiny. But it is sometimes so far away from the reality of the day to day for many people and organisations.
I don’t pretend to have the answer to the question that I am posing. Maybe the answer is to do everything we can do engage those people, to make all work as meaningful and enjoyable and engaging as possible. To make work better, for everyone, wherever they are, or whatever they do.
But there is just a little bit of me, that wonders. Are we dreaming?