Photo by Kimberly Burnham

Happiness and Work Ethic on Labor Day?

By Kimberly Burnham

Are you happy on Labor Day? Is it special because you have a day off, can sleep in, and invite friends for a barbeque? Does a “day off” sharply contrast with your work life? Are you happy as you contribute to your family and community with your work? Before he retired, my father had a picture of his family on his desk at work. Whenever I looked at it he would say, “That is to remind me why I work.” I always felt pride in his accomplishments tinged with the guilt of being someone else’s responsibility. I didn’t always know if he was happy at work.

Successful business entrepreneur, Andrew Carnegie said, “If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.”

What inspires your hopes on this Labor Day? What is the impact of your work life on your health and wellness? Work, of course can be defined in many ways, including anything that contributes to the thriving of our families and societies.

There is a saying, “it takes a village to raise a child.” There are many other things that can’t be done without a community gathering with a specific goal. And on Labor Day, perhaps a worthy goal is satisfying and productive work for everyone—work that inspires them as they contribute to family and community.

You might think me naive to suggest that everyone can have satisfying and productive work. I used to go to the Michigan Women’s Music Festival near Hart, Mich. It was an amazing week where thousands of women gathered to listen to music and camp. Most of the work was done by volunteers, by festival goers. Each woman was required, if able to work four to six hours during the weeklong event. As with any village there were normally undesirable jobs like making sure the latrines were clean and stocked with toilet paper or waking up at four am to cook breakfast for 8,000 women. Now you would think no one would volunteer for these jobs but the Michigan Women’s Music Festival ensured that women not only wanted those cleaning jobs but competed for them by raising the status of the women who volunteered. They sang and joked as they made their rounds in a pickup truck. They were the cool team to be a part of. And if you worked the early early morning breakfast crew, you didn’t miss any of the other activities going on during the day.

Work satisfaction and effectiveness is not only about money and perks. A recent journal article talked about all the things that make it possible for someone who has suffered an illness to go back to work. Dorland, H. F., F. I. Abma, et al. said in, “Factors influencing work functioning after cancer diagnosis,” that “Cancer survivors frequently return to work, but little is known about work functioning after return to work. ” Their study showed, “Long-lasting symptoms (e.g. fatigue), poor adaptation, high work ethics, negative attitude to work, ambiguous communication, lack of support and changes in the work environment were mentioned as barriers of work functioning. In contrast, staying at work during treatment, open dialogue, high social support, appropriate work accommodations and high work autonomy facilitated work functioning.”

It is interesting that a “high work ethic,” perhaps a perfectionist attitude or driving yourself too hard is a barrier to work function. Work functioning seems to be supported or enhanced by “high work autonomy” or the ability and desire to work independently, perhaps in a leadership capacity. On this Labor Day consider whether you have a high work ethic or high work autonomy and how that affects your success and happiness whatever your “work” is.

This study also contrasted “ambiguous communication” and “open dialogue” as things that either contributes to success at work or not. Think about your work place. Are there desirable and undesirable jobs? What can be done to create even better communication between individuals and teams, so that the day after Labor Day is a great day for us all?

About Kimberly Burnham

Author of "Awakenings: Peace Dictionary, Language and the Mind, A Daily Brain Health Program" Kimberly Burnham, PhD (Integrative Medicine) investigates the relationship between memory, language, caring and pattern recognition to create a daily brain health exercise program enabling people to achieve better neurological health, mood, and quality of life. She is on a mission to create more peace and understanding in the world by collecting and writing about the nuanced meaning of “Peace” in 4,000 different languages and is looking for funding to complete the project. Known as The Nerve Whisperer, Kimberly uses words (books, presentations, and poetry), health coaching, guided visualization, and hands-on therapies (CranioSacral therapy, acupressure, Matrix Energetics, Reiki, and Integrative Manual Therapy) to help people heal from nervous system and autoimmune conditions. She also focuses on vision issues like macular degeneration and supports people looking for eye exercises to improve driving and reading skills as well as athletic visual speed. An award-winning poet, Kimberly grew up overseas. The child of an international businessman and an artist, she learned Spanish in Colombia; French in Belgium; then Japanese in Tokyo and has studied both Italian and Hebrew as an adult. The author of “My Book: Self-Publishing, a Guided Journal”, she can be reached for health coaching, publishing help, bible study zoom presentations or talking about peace at NerveWhisperer@gmail.com or http://www.NerveWhisperer.Solutions.

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