‘Sense sweetens work’ – ScienceGuide

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20 October 2022 | History does not lack answers to the question of meaning, but the search has never ended. In our time, ‘work’ seems to be an important medium of meaning, from the time-honored ‘labour nobility’ to YoungCapital’s idealized advertisements. From the chair of Labor and Meaning at PThU, the gifted professor Maroesjka Versantvoort will further investigate the relationship between work and meaning.

Prof. Dr. Dr. ir. Maroesjka Versatvoort, specially appointed professor in Labor and Meaning at PThU. Picture: PThU

Does work only provide income to live a good life or is it the new religion? In the Netherlands, the champion of part-time work with a workforce that seems mainly focused on ‘funnyAt work, people no longer seem to seek meaning in their day-to-day work. Especially among young people, the “obligatory nature” of work (such as starting on time, delivering results and necessary productivity) is experienced as coercion. That is why they are against it. In addition, the income difference between working and receiving unemployment benefits is now so small that, because of all the equalization, there is no incentive to work, said Coen Teulings, former director of the Social and Cultural Planning Office.

At the same time, the meaning of work, whether it is intertwined with a religion or not, can in fact form the weapon against the common diseases of our time such as depression, loneliness and exclusion. The fact that a quarter of healthcare spending is spent annually on psychological care and behavioral disorders, and that working people suffer less from depression, makes this question even more relevant. After all, a working environment is also a social foundation. Anyone who realizes how many hours of paid work one does in a busy human life should consider this once.

Work and well-being

An equally old structure of meaning is religion. Research shows beyond dispute that religion and identity promote well-being. From the Chair of Labor and Meaning at the Protestant Theological University (PThU), Special Professor Maroesjka Versantvoort from the Social and Cultural Planning Office will further investigate these themes.

In her acceptance speech, she outlined the paradox that characterizes today’s society. “We are breaking free from the confines of the past while seeing ‘connection’ and ‘community’ as ideals for the future,” she explained. Logically, these wishes are at odds with the increasing presence of flexible work and shift work.

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The so-called new ‘nonsense jobs’ also seem to complicate the question of the relationship between meaning and work. Or does the work in itself make sense? Work is nobility, as the old saying goes. It is crystal clear for the Queen’s Commissioner in Groningen and former CNV trade unionist Rene Paas: Work is happiness, he once stated firmly at Hanzehøjskolen.

Reason strengthens and limits work

How much work is required for happiness? If you ask the innovation prophet Elon Musk, you will hear that only working at least forty hours and maybe even a hundred hours leads to success and therefore happiness. However, this amount is again at odds with the ‘good life’ that everyone strives for – a broad area of ​​interest that PThU’s research program ‘Mediating the good life’ responds to. According to Versantvoort, already in his time, Multatuli gave a striking definition that can serve as a counterpart to Musk’s gospel: “Man does not grow by salary, but by the work that earns the salary”.

There is no doubt about Versantvoort. “Sans sweetens the work. If we do it right, at least and in moderation. Then the following applies: meaning strengthens the work and limits it.”

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