The meaning of work: an opportunity for self-realization or torture?

David Reyero

The Spanish word for work, trabajo, comes from the Latin trepalium, which was an instrument of torture in Roman times. In English, 'work' comes from the Gothic word wrikan, meaning persecution.  

A negative perspective of suffering without hope of change, which has endured for thousands of years. This status quo has suddenly been shattered by the phenomenon known as ‘The Great Resignation’: an important social movement and a work revolution which is shaking the foundations of many companies and sectors. Nearly 50 million workers in the US left their jobs in 2021 and this wave is gradually spreading to other countries. 

It is well recognized that the pandemic has seriously challenged our values and helped us to reevaluate our priorities. In such an extreme context, many people have grown tired of an environment they see as toxic: pointless jobs, bad bosses, little pay, a lack of work-life balance options…  

The reasons may be diverse, but they reflect a clear trend: people are no longer prepared to work just to survive; they want to fulfill themselves at work, to enjoy what they do and to have flexible hours. 

“Pay me well, help me continue learning, treat me well, value my ideas regardless of my position, help me leverage my strengths and passions…”.  

Perfectly reasonable needs and requests shared by millions of men and women. New employer branding is required by companies that want to continue to be regarded as competitive and attractive by talented individuals who see their time as an increasingly valuable resource. 

A reset in which well-being and flexibility become strategic elements. By way of example, a recent survey found that many tech employees in the US would turn down a $30,000 raise to work 100% from home. 

These are the first signs of deep-seated changes in the employment market and it would appear they are here to stay. Today, talent is playing to win, to make a difference, to leave a mark, to turn the world of work into something much more noble. 

Let us take advantage of this black swan to completely reinvent the ways in which we work, fast-track changes in mentality, increase delegation and reinvent the leadership of remote teams. Let us be more trusting and delegate, modulating micromanagement and excessive control. Let us commit to improving the context in which talent can really shine. To practicing the highly successful philosophy preached by Johan Cruyff of "go out and enjoy yourselves". 

The goal has to be a professional environment that is less hierarchical and in which we are all leaders. Organizations in which psychological security prevails over fear. Professionals who show maturity and personal responsibility, with a judicious balance between rights and obligations in the workplace. 

In this way, we will move towards organizations which are wiser and more sustainable, because they will be more adept at combining good financial results with the essential well-being of their employees. 

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