Over the course of a lifetime, the average person will spend 13 years and 2 months at work. That’s more time than socializing with other people (1 year, 3 days), more time than eating (4.5 years), and more time than Netflix (about 8 years). For all this time spent, you might assume people love the work they’re doing. But if you thought that, you’d be mistaken.
In fact, In 2017 Mental Health America and the Faas Foundation conducted a study across 19 industries that found 71 percent of employees were looking to change employers because they were unhappy. And In the same year a Gallup poll found that 87% of employees are not engaged at work. 71% of millennials, who will make up the majority of the workforce by 2030 are unhappy at work.
For my part, After graduating college almost 2 years ago, I found myself among this group of unhappy millennials. It’s not that my job itself sucked, but there were a lot of things happening in my life at one time. Firstly I had experienced two family deaths in rapid succession which took a big toll. One was my little cousin, who tragically took her own life, at the young age of 16 years old.
The second reason I was unhappy was that I was struggling to adjust to the working world. Transitioning from an over-achieving undergraduate into a young professional, I brought with me the mindset that you stay into the work gets done. I quickly found out that the work is never done. That is why they keep paying you.
All of this got me thinking about how short and fragile life is and how I was spending so much of it at work. Thus, I did what any rational person would do, I packed up my things and left the country.
Over the next 6 months, I traveled to 15 countries, going hostel to hostel, and meeting people from all over the world.What I found fascinating is that in every country I went, I’d meet at least one person who had gotten burnt out at work and quit their job to travel, to see the world, and to try and find meaning in life. I wondered what is it about work that sucks. Why were so many people burnt out. For our whole lives, we’re basically told that a good job means a good life. So what’s going on here?
The answer is quite complex and I have barely scratched the surface. But if we take a look at the history of work in America for a starting point, we can get some interesting insight. For most of our country’s history, the work that needed to be done and the profit came first. The life of the worker came second. That began to change in the late 19th century as a series of events, including workers beginning to march together, help win us the 40-hour work week.
In America today, there are more jobs available than people to fill them. Companies are making big concessions to appeal to talent.
The 40 hour work week , reduced from 48, was a change led by Henry Ford. Ford believed too many hours were bad for productivity. Work conditions were awful back then by today’s standards. Imagine no bathroom breaks, no benefits or sick pay and no safety standards… so basically an Amazon warehouse on steroids. Thankfully many things have changed.
I believe we are now in a time where workers have more power than ever. In America today, there are more jobs available than people to fill them. Companies are making big concessions to appeal to talent. Unspeakable in Ford’s time was the idea of a sabbatical where employees can take months or years off to focus on personal development, a concept that many companies are seriously considering or and some have implemented. My own journey turned out to be a sabbatical of sorts.
One of the people I met on my travels left me a piece of advice I want to impart on you: you can always make more money, but you can never make more time.
Here’s what you I learned through my process: work to live, don’t live to work. What you do matters, but what you do doesn’t start and stop with your day job. Many of you will be transitioning to the workplace, some of you are already there. Remember that you have a responsibility to do your job to the best of your ability but also to live your best life and you can do both. A trip around the world is a bit radical for most people, but everyone can start by maintaining a balance between work and life.
When I finished traveling, I was surprised and excited when the company allowed to me to return to a new job, a better job, where we actually talk a lot about things like the employee experience and how we can make work better.You’ll spend more time working than just about anything else in your life. I hope that you make it worth it. One of the people I met on my travels left me a piece of advice I want to impart on you: you can always make more money, but you can never make more time.
Thanks for reading…
DJ Jeffries is a self-proclaimed “intrapreneur” and entrepreneur with an obsession for challenging the status quo. A graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, he’s been awarded the Bill & Melinda Gates Millennium Fellowship, the University Innovation Fellowship (through Stanford University) and the Richard B. Fisher Fellowship (Morgan Stanley). He is the founder and editor of http://Led2win.com , an online motivation publication, the host of the Hacking Happiness podcast, and is currently an HR Transformation Associate at Morgan Stanley.