'Why We Work': It's more than money

'Why We Work' by Barry Schwartz
'Why We Work' by Barry Schwartz
Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Why do we work?

Barry Schwartz's book begins with that question. What gets us to the office, or the factory, or the work site every morning?

Is it money? Schwartz says that's far too simple an answer.

Is it satisfaction? For some people, yes, but as Schwartz says, "for most of us, work is monotonous, meaningless and soul-deadening." According to a Gallup poll, which gathered data from 230,000 workers in 142 countries, only 13 percent of workers feel engaged by their jobs.

So why are so many people doing something they don't enjoy? And more importantly: What can change?

Schwartz digs into a range of workplaces to investigate trends and patterns that lead to happiness in the workplace. He explores everywhere from hair salons to boardrooms and finds that the type of job has very little to do with the satisfaction level. Instead, it's the workplace culture that matters. Good workplaces, rather than what popular culture views as "good" jobs, make the difference.

In his book, he outlines why everyone — from bosses to entry-level employees — should care about creating effective workplaces:

Why should we design such workplaces? We've already seen that good workplaces enable people to do good work. Their customers and clients benefit and so do their employees. And there is a second good reason. When people are able to do work they value, it makes them happy. It enhances their well-being. ... Why wouldn't we want to design a workplace that enables its inhabitants to get real satisfaction out of the time they spend there?

Schwartz joined MPR News' Kerri Miller to discuss the modern workplace, how things have gotten off track — and how they could be improved.

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