What does work mean to you? Why do you work?
When my company scaled down its operations in Singapore about 13 years ago, I was asked to work in the US. I had a choice, to either move over or to leave the company. At the time, my dad was unwell. For the first time in my life, he was insistent that I stayed. I did think it was strange but I didn’t think much about it as I had always been travelling for work so I went.
I received a call one night,
“Apa’s very sick, Doctors said it is serious. Come home quick!”
What does work means to you? Why do you work?
Guilt washed over me as I remembered him insisting I stayed home. It happened to be around the time of the September 11 attack in the US and despite my best efforts to book a flight, all planes were grounded.
It was about a week before I could get a plane. I hopped onto the earliest flight I could get, which was a 36 ‘detour’ journey from usual 20+ hour flight path to get home. It was the longest 36 hours I had ever lived through.
On arrival at the airport, my wife and best friend were there with ‘news’. I was too late and missed seeing my dad alive. Yes, I lost him while I was on the flight home.
I asked myself,
“What is the meaning of work? Was it worth sacrificing my family for?”
10 years I had worked long and hard thinking this was what I needed to do. It was a hard climb for me, and my family suffered silently with me.
The guilt and stress got to me and I immediately quit my job. Luckily, my boss was understanding and kept me on a consulting role for several subsequent months. For about six months I was spending time with my family and pondering the meaning of life, success and work.
When you take conscious effort to take care of yourself, your family and the people around you, the work would always take care of itself.
FINDING A NEW PERSPECTIVE
I went back to work with a new perspective in life. I decided that I would focus first on taking care of my family. I decided too that I would not take my job too seriously to the extent of compromising my family needs. This determination helped me to get my priorities right, both at work and in personal life. I felt at ease with myself.
I consciously treat everyone as though they are part of my extended family members.
I started to enjoy interactions with people; better than before and sensed I am much better received by those who interact with me. My family got closer and I had time to get to know my family, especially my mom, better. I accorded same values at work where I consciously treat everyone as though they are part of my extended family members. At work, when I am at cross roads to make critical people decisions, I would ask myself, “Will I do the same if this person were my brother or sister?”
Since then, work became a joy with far less obstacles than before. While my first 10 years of work was a constant struggle, my last 13 years had been without unwanted surprises and almost always I got what I wanted.
Without a clear idea of what or why you are working, it is easy to get swept away in any given challenge you might face. In those 6 months of self-reflection, I decided that work was a means to take care of my family and myself and I should never lose sight of that. When you take conscious effort to take care of yourself, your family and the people around you, the work would always take care of itself.
Chief Human Resource Officer