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Why do you work?

Espresso-live Speakers
by Aarthi Sivaramakrishnan
27 April 2015

We spend a great deal of time on work, don't we? At least 8 hours of work a day, add to it a few hours in commute, the mind space work occupies even while we are away from work… It would be safe to assume that work occupies around 40 - 45% of our daily lives!

Trace it back a bit; we actually spend our entire childhood and adolescence educating ourselves in pursuit of work. We are wired to think that one needs to "earn" a living.

I spoke to 25 men and 25 women to find out why they work. I used a three step iterative questioning technique (why-why-why) to elicit 3 responses to the question. Here's all the information:

Why do you work? Beroe Inc

No surprises here - 70% of the respondents felt financial need was the key reason they work. To these 35 people, I posed an additional question - "If money were off the table, if all your basic financial needs were taken care of, would you still consider working?"

Since a lot of millennials I spoke to fell under this category, I expected most responses to be along the lines of - "No, I will travel the world" and the likes. I was stumped to figure out that 30 of the 35 people responded in the affirmative. That's Maslow's hierarchy in action for you.

Unlike financial needs, freedom and mastery are two aspects that can never be fulfilled in the absolute sense. Of course, one can argue that human "wants" know no bounds and consequently, financial needs wouldn't be absolute either. But if this were true, the responses of this small sample of 50 people would have been skewed differently.

Isn't that a powerful insight? The inherent reasons for which people work are: Intellectual freedom and professional mastery.

At Beroe, where mastery at the category level is a key facet of our differentiation in the market place, we realized that creating conditions (processes of choice, tools that help and invisible incentives to motivate) that enable them to explore, practice, discover and proudly demonstrate mastery on their own is enabling greater employee engagement. Indeed, "Freedom to focus" is now the HR mantra for Beroe going forward.

I'd like to hear from you. So, why do you work?

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