You are more than your work title

Sanne Peek, Staff Writer

Where does life begin and work stop? The American philosophy ingrained deep within society is that an individual has to work extremely hard in order to receive an ounce of success. While I find this value admirable, “hard work” seems like a thinly draped veil that covers the ulterior motives of large American business. 

Americans are known to live to work as opposed to the value of working to live. Rather than working to live a purposeful life, Americans tend to lose sight of what they’re working for and get caught up in their fast-paced career. To be clear, I am in no way criticizing the necessity to work: the people working two jobs to pay bills or taking on side gigs to make ends meet. I am referring to those whose work habits exceed the reward for their actions. 

The prospect of getting up each morning to go to work, doing something you love to do, only to get home at night to continue doing work — unpaid and unappreciated — does not excite many young people, including myself.  

I come from a European family and I’ve always seen flaws in the work strategy that encompasses much of American life. All work and no play eventually makes anyone hate what they’re doing. In comparison to most Europeans, Americans take less vacations and less days off. Women in the U.S. especially are known to do more unpaid work compared to their male counterparts. It seems that in America, people are overworking themselves in order to prove their value to their employers to ensure they don’t get replaced. The American working class are the expendable piece in our capitalist system, but it doesn’t have to be this way — the workers can be celebrated. 

In Spain, for instance, the idea of work has always been evolving in the interests of the workers. As the first country to enact eight-hour workdays in 1919, the country will now make more moves in the 21st century to help the workers as they will be the first-ever to enact a trial period of four-day business weeks on a large scale. As many companies have been trying this method over the past years, it has become apparent that the workers and the companies benefit from this arrangement. In Spain, where minimum rest time is a normal occurrence, a period of one and a half uninterrupted days is granted to employees where their employer cannot contact them. The balance between work and life is very different from that of America. Mental health improves when not constantly bombarded with messages and worry over work. People should never be seen as expendable — at the end of the day, they are more than just the title of ‘employee.’

Alas, hope can be found if other states follow California’s precedent. In California, employers cannot force an employee to work off the clock. Additionally, administrators are encouraged to reprimand managers who send emails after work hours. This is a step in the right direction, but it will take more legislation to protect workers’ rights and to improve the American philosophy on work. 

In the meantime remember, all work and no play leads to the events of  “The Shining” and no one wants that so take a break if you have the opportunity. You are more than your work title or your degree; you are more than the ‘success’ other people bestow on you.