Love At Work

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It’s no longer love itself that will tear us apart, apparently; it’s vlogging. Yes, the couples that vlog together, according to a new documentary from the BBC, are less likely to stay together.

Quelle surprise.

As pretty much any reality TV couple will tell you, when you turn your love affair into a business partnership (which, in the social age, means turning yourselves inside-out for all to see), the odds on longevity are reduced to those of a hashtag.

When ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ become more important than kisses and cuddles, there are just too many people in that marriage to please.

No one is supposed to know what goes on in a relationship behind closed doors. It seems, when you throw those doors open, most proclaimed ‘ride or die’ relationships turn into ‘cash-in and split’ ones under the glare.

Valentine’s Day, for many, tightens their focus on their existing, potential or dreamed of partner.

Romantic gestures are assessed for timeliness, original thought and meaning. Declarations are publicly posted, passive-aggressively demanded or disdainfully dismissed. But, for all the lamentations about this most clichéd, commercialised, and, let’s face it, tacky of feast days, few forget it (whether loved up or not).

In the name of balance, we have created other days in the calendar to remind us there are other forms of love, and most less fraught than the pursuit of heady romance: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, International Friendship Day.

(Okay, so Mother’s Day is only slightly less fraught for many than Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day has never really taken off in a big way and all those International Days are fleeting hashtags few take to heart, but at least there have been some efforts made to steal the thunder away from the Love Monster that is Valentine’s).

But there is a whole other world of love that never gets a look-in, never gets talked about. It’s a love that dare not speak it’s name, for, if it does, it’s seen as sad, or sucking-up, or virtue-signalling.

Yes, I’m talking about our love for, and of, work.

I checked. There isn’t any ‘International I Love My Job Day’ or equivalent. Funny really, as when you talk to a lot of people about their work (as I have done a lot in my own career) love is the word that comes up. A lot.

Considering how many people don’t love their jobs (recent stats suggest nearly half of the population are looking for a new one at any one time) you’d think it’d be good to find out from the people who do love what they do why they love it. It might help inspire the rest of us (as, presumably, those loving couples who want to vlog about their love want to do – all the way to the bank, and all the way to Splitsville).

By no means a definitive list, I’ve thought about the many forms of love I’ve encountered at work that have nothing to do with romance, and yet do a heartening job at romancing the best that work can offer.

Love at work really can be a meaningful romance. Let me count the ways:

Loving the company you keep

A lot of people don’t actually love what they do, per se, but they love the people they do it with. In fact, this is probably the number one context in which love is mentioned by workers – “I love the people I work with.”

Sociable animals, it seems even a ghastly task can be tolerated with the right banter, or understanding, or support offered by others around you. Laughter is the key. The happy workplace laughs a lot. People love that.

For some, loving the company they keep can literally be brand love. These people get their hands on a lot of the company merch. Sometimes it becomes a love for all time, wherever they work: you know the ones, on a constant “When I worked at such-and-such” loop.

Yeah, we get it, you used to work at such-and-such.

It can be easy to fall out of love with these people.

Loving the vibe

From the occasional free donut to daily championing, support and belief, treating people like an asset, rather than a commodity, is a good way to make people love their work.

Being asked, being heard, makes all the difference. Money works for some. Status (the right parking spot, the corner office) works for some. For others, what they can away with is the key to their amour (I’m sure Harvey Weinstein loved what he was able to get away with at Miramax).

But, for most, being treated like a human being is all it takes to make them fall in love with you. It makes for a good vibe (“We’re like a family,” being the most commonly cheered statement I’ve heard in loved-up workplaces).

Loving the role

You might be a terrible homemaker, a sketchy friend, an irritable and cantankerous parent, partner or child, but, when you step into work, you become your best self – “You’re good at this. You’ve got this.”

For some people, they’re just really good at what they do. To all appearances, the truly work-elevated make it look a breeze, effortless, no matter how hard they might be working. With no imposter syndrome to haunt them, they happily are what they do, and can’t imagine being anything else. Their authentic self, their best self, their inspired self, is found at work.

The biggest danger in life for these people is redundancy or retirement.

Loving the mix

It’s one of the biggest recruitment clichés (and sells) of all time: “no two days are the same here!

But, as with a lot of clichés, this groove is channelled by truth, and, for a lot of people, it’s the fact that no two days are the same that makes them love what they do.

While major change is not something we are wired to accept too readily, people will always thrive thanks to a new audience, task or scene – if something takes their curiosity. We are curious creatures. We are not machines. And we don’t love it when we’re treated as if we are (but, as mentioned above, the camaraderie of colleagues can do much to off-set this). 

Freedom is a variant on variety, and, for all the cash flow crises and endless touting of their wares, the giggers, freelancers and independents will tell you they can love a variety of workplace ‘cages’ (as long as the doors remain open).

We all like to keep it moving, within reason. The biggest danger for all of us is creeping inertia at work (focus being the key to productivity, if nothing else).

Loving the job

My final, most fundamental, most sustainable (IMHO) form of work love is a true love of what you do in terms of task (head, hands and heart). People, and company cultures, change; come and go. Status fluctuates. What was once exciting and unfamiliar can become routine (and tarnished as a result).

But, but, everything can be tolerated if you can lose yourself in the task and the hours fly-by.

This is the holy grail. Finding the thing. Like finding ‘the one’, it can take you a lifetime. Many settle, which is a good job in the grand scheme of things.

I always think the happiest couples I know are the ones who, when it comes down to it, would rather spend time with each other than with anyone else. I guess the happiest people at work are those who would rather be there than anywhere else.

Maybe being there is the biggest sign of love of there is after all.

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