EST. May 2000 (AD)


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The 'Science' Behind Work - What You Need To Know

Hello! It's science time! There's nothing I like more than to sit down and share my love of the world around us. Now read those sentences again. As you can see, I sound happy and fulfilled. Could that be because I'm working? Freud theorized that having fulfilling work is one of the requirements for a happy life.

Of course, Freud wasn't a real scientist, so we can safely discard this kind of wild, senseless talk and look for a more scientific understanding of work and its place in our lives. For example, in the case above, I sound happy because I'm drunk and I just found a hot dog down the side of the sofa.

I wonder what else we'll discover as we settle down, check for bugging devices in the surrounding area, fix our foil caps on tightly and prepare to enter the world of science.

Why do we work?

The economic function of work is to allow us to buy shelter, goods and services to survive and prosper in life. The planetary function of work is to keep the Earth spinning on its axis. Were we all simultaneously to decide to take a day off work and remain in bed, the planet would be flung out beyond its orbit, into the cold reaches of space, where all life would be extinguished instantly.

Does everyone work?

Yes. Apart from Hollywood heiresses, cats and the dead. This is because of a life-condition known as thinness. In Western society, the very thin do not have to work.

How does that work for those huge tomcats, then?

What can I say? They carry their weight well.

What was the first profession?

If you work in a cinema or theatre, you can be proud of having the oldest job in the world. As an usher! Ushers were the first profession to emerge in life, when more advanced organisms pointed the way out for others, through the dark, primordial sludge, onto dry land. For this role, they were paid in peas and beans.

In scientific terms, when is the best time for deep concentration?

There is an optimum time of day to engage in different activities. For example, you are most alert at about ten in the morning, after your first three coffees, but before your first vodka. The best time to go to the gym is in the evening, because you will be at work all day and probably too busy. Night is the best time to sleep, because that's when you're lying in bed in the dark.

As for deep concentration, try not to do it. If you need to think about something that hard, it is likely the answer, when it arrives, will be unpleasant. In any case, it is dangerous and can lead to ADD, bowel disorder and extremely cowlicky hair. If you must concentrate deeply, do it in controlled bursts. Have ice cubes to hand and warn a friend.

How can I tell if I am in the right profession?

Once again, we can use the scientific framework to implement an experiment to help us find out. It is no good simply asking yourself "Am I happy in my job?", which is hard to quantify. Instead, perform a scientific analysis.

Experiment one: Look down at your clothes. Clothes can tell a scientist a lot about a person. If, for example, you have leather patches on the elbows of your jacket, you would probably make a good college lecturer. If you are wearing tails and holding a short cane, try being an orchestral conductor. Are you sporting a Harley Davidson T-shirt and leathers? Then maybe be a - bike person, of some kind. It is amazing what we can learn by looking closely at ourselves.

Experiment two: Sit down with a sheet of paper and analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Be honest. No - be ruthless. Then imagine you are your mother. Rate yourself as she would rate you. Now imagine you're your last boyfriend. Repeat the process.

Now, don't you feel terrible? In comparison to your other problems, your career worries really are nothing.

Experiment three: Think back to when you were in school. Picture the person who made your life miserable, perhaps the idiot teacher who failed to see promise in a hopeful young scientist. Now picture them, beetle-sized, running around on your keyboard. Squash them with your thumb.

There's actually no real point to that one. I just like doing it.

What can I expect when I retire?

Well, here's some good news. Science shows us that increasing air travel and industrial pollution has not affected the climate: if it had we would have noticed surprising numbers of freak weather events, like hurricanes and tsunamis! Luckily, we are protected by the eagle-eyed scientific community.

In socio-economic terms, there will not be a health crisis, and workers today will have a superb retirement package to look forward to, because of the responsible practices of today's corporations. I am sure we will be thanking our business leaders too, for their excellent decisions regarding pollution, when we are in no way choking to death in the smoggy, sun-scorched wastes of the future.

Is there a scientific formula for success?

Yes, but I have been sworn to secrecy. For those of you who really, really, want to know and think you can handle it, I will be setting up a premium rate phone line in the near future.

I don't think you're a real scientist

How dare you! Of course I am. I have a lab and everything. Well, it's a bathroom. But I wear a white coat in there. (See How can I tell if I am in the right profession? Experiment one above.)

Fun work facts

Work is not fun. There will be no fun facts today. Instead, you should be dealing with that stack of paper. Honestly, I'm surprised. You're at work! Think about fun things on someone else's time, missy.

© 2007 Emma Rowley

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Emma Rowley is a Londoner. Maybe that's why she loves London Town.