On Friday mornings I have been working in nature in Brabant, for almost ten years. I pull pines from the weeds or dig exotic bushes like American bird cherry from the woods. Sometimes under the loud song of the fountain in Huis ter Heide, sometimes with background screams from Joris en de Draak in Plantloon. It usually sweats well, and sometimes it puffs into numb fingers. But it’s always nice outdoor work with no more difficult issues on your mind than: Will this be digging or sawing?
The company is also nice. A colorful mix of hands-on types, ranging from a retired construction worker, psychologist, and bank manager, to a recovering burnout teacher or a few job seekers or self-employed like myself.
Volunteer time in the chair
Last year, an enviable new type was added: the chief-time volunteer. Two people in their 30s help out with IT regularly. Like all of their colleagues, they make 10 percent of their work time useful to society. These fellows, for example, serve coffee at a daycare center or show refugees their way.
I also want an employer like that, I thought right away, and it turns out that I’m not the only one. IT consulting firm Bizzomate says the idea convinces more than half of new hires. Which doesn’t really surprise me if I’m in European Values Atlas It examines the desires and opinions of Europeans about work.
In each country, about 90 percent of Europeans consider work important or very important in life. And the most important aspect of work is pretty much ubiquitous: good pay. However, this is by no means the whole story.
Since the inception of this research into values in the early 1980s, the importance of meaningful work has grown. Europeans prefer a job where you can demonstrate talent and craft and contribute to a better and more beautiful world. The Scandinavians believe that this is the most important thing now. But desire is growing without diminishing the importance of decent pay or job security.
Since the 80s of the last century, the list of countries in which leisure is more important than work has been steadily growing since the 80s. This concerns countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland, where there is a high degree of prosperity and a good social “safety net”, as well as countries such as the United Kingdom, Serbia or Estonia. Work pressure and job offer play a role, as does work culture. Do you live to work or work to live?
The younger generations in particular want it all: a permanent job that makes money, attracts your talent, is meaningful and leaves time for fun, and other things. Unfortunately, this does not always work. Videos with the hashtag appeared on TikTok last summer #QuietQuitting. People in their 30s say they are fed up. They stop working overtime, have drinks and go all out. Under increasing work pressure, they do no more than is necessary. They don’t want to be stressed or overworked, but they do want more free time. There is also # BigQuiet. People leave their jobs to look for another job: one with more content, fun, or free time.
Being allowed to spend a tenth of your working time saving wild lands, forests, or whatever other goal you naturally choose for yourself fits in nicely with both of these trends: more meaningful work and more time for yourself. And it all just paid. Maybe I should look for a boss like this myself.
Is work a duty to society? Do you need work to develop yourself? Doesn’t work make you lazy? View opinions in europe about atlasofeuropeanvalues.eu/nl/ (Choose “Cards”).
Science journalist Marga van Zandert is one of the creators of the Atlas of European Values (valueatlas.eu) and draws on the social science data on which the atlas is based for this series. Read it here previous columns Back.
“Twitter junkie. Lifelong communicator. Award-winning analyst. Subtly charming internetaholic.”