How about we start working for good?

How about we start working for good?
Photo by Clark Tibbs / Unsplash

“Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living.” 

Indeed. But also: “It’s all taking and no giving.” 

In case you were wondering why St. Dolly had been inducted into not just one but two halls of fame — don’t. She’s just that awesome. She popped that song in no time flat, too, using her fingernails as inspiration for the rhythmic signature. What a boss.

The thing about it is, our relationship to work leaves a lot to be desired, starting with the fact that most of us think of it has something we have to do, not something we get to do. 

I can say this as an artist: There is undeniable joy in doing work you’re meant to do, work you’re proud of, work that challenges you and ideally pays some of your bills. If you can find a job that lets you do that kind of work and pays you for it, you’re in business. 

Alas, most of us can’t, or at least can’t do that fully. So we take jobs that are sort of good enough, and work on our cherished projects during off hours. Some of us have more than one job to cover mounting bills and squeeze the most important work in the later evening hours and on weekends. 

It’s beyond stupid. Most of us aren’t rewarded for doing our best work; instead we spend our most luminous energy working jobs that, at best, don’t really contribute much to making the world a better place. 

When we first started emerging from the pandemic, a year and a bit ago, many people who’d been laid off from fast-food and other hospitality jobs didn’t bother to return. This led to countless restaurants where only the drive-thru was operating, because it’s the only way you can run a Tim’s with just a handful of employees. By keeping customers outside. 

We called this the Great Resignation — and yes it covered more than fast-food jobs. Many people realized they were worth more than a crappy job that pays very little and offers no benefits. And who could blame them?

Then we had Quiet Quitting, in which office workers basically stopped doing work for which they weren’t paid, like answering emails after hours or catching up on files at the kids’ weekend soccer games. 

I’m fascinated by these changes to our relationship to work because I believe we’d be better off as a society if most people were properly rewarded for doing the work they’re best suited to do, not whatever job they can get. I’m sitting here hoping those trends we flip through are the first tentative steps towards my little version of utopia, or something where most people would earn a decent living wage doing work that’s kind of mostly useful. That’d be a good compromise. 

And where purpose is what we arrange our work lives around, not something we need meditation breaks from our shit jobs to find. That is the subject of this week’s Citizen column, which I hope you’ll read. 

And then maybe pull yourself a cup of ambition and rewatch 9 to 5, just for the hell of it.