Are you happy?

The entrance hall of the new library at the new campus of the University of Economics in Vienna

For the last 20 months, I’ve worked freelance and pursued goals in volunteering. 

I couldn’t be happier. 

I don’t go to “the office” at 9am, but I get more done than ever before. I have never been this productive. 

Here’s what I've learned so far. 

Choosing what you do is incredibly motivating. Choosing who you do it for even more so. Why aren’t more people doing it? 

I’ve met incredible people since I started running Vienna Greeters and united heartbeat. From a rapper from Afghanistan to the first man to import Lavazza coffee to Austria, a crime author, the man who built this, game developers, and just loads of people who create stuff.

And still ...

So many people I talk to are unhappy in their jobs. Why is that?

If you live in a developed country, had a good education, are healthy and in paid employment, and you’re not happy, it’s your fault. 

Seriously, why are you doing it? 

If you get home from work exhausted, but you’re not happy, you need to change something. It’s your responsibility, no-one else’s. 

If you say you’ll leave your job if X, Y or Z, but you’re still there after all these years, it’s your fault.  

You don’t “owe” your company anything. You work, they pay you. You’re quits. Stop pretending that there’s a moral code here. They won’t sacrifice themselves for you when the going gets tough, so stop doing it for them.   

People often say to me “Ah, but you’re good at languages/music/communication/whatever” as if I have some secret weapon that no-one else has. I don’t. All of it, whichever thing you pick, is hard work. If you want to learn a language or play the piano, you have to work at it. But no-one is stopping you. 

Everyone thinks that it’s easier for other people.  

Why don’t companies train their staff, but leave them in the same jobs and tasks they’ve been doing for years, while the world outside is changing year for year? 

Why don’t companies realise that the next big thing will not be found in their boardroom, and it definitely won’t be discovered or invented by senior management? 

Someone said to me “I’m not happy with my job, but at least I have something”. Is that where humanity has come after 2 million years of evolution? 

Connected networks have revolutionised communication, science, finance, education, healthcare, entertainment, creativity, even relationships. So why are will still hanging on to the colossal bullshit that is the 9–to–5 office day, a sad remnant from the 20th century factory workplace?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for people to work less. I’m calling for people to work better. I don’t work fewer hours than before; I just don’t sit at the same desk doing the same tasks for the same amount of time. Variation is the key to my personal happiness. Yours might be different, but I'll wager that the key to your happiness isn't in your office.

I know. You’ll say “It’s easy for him to say, with his laptop, flat-white and simmering midlife crisis, but not everyone can do that”. Sure, it would be a living hell if everyone were like me. That’s not what I’m asking. I just want people to be happy. 

Someone I know spent 12 hours a day travelling to a big city and then working in an office, doing work that was 100% online. They saw their children on Skype. Why would a skilled professional make the choice (and it is a choice) to do that and not see their kids? 

An acquaintance told me that they can’t take public transport to work, but have to drive, otherwise they can’t get their kids to kindergarten on time and still get into the office on time. Sorry, but that's bullshit. What kind of company penalises their staff for taking their kids to kindergarten? Not a family friendly company, that’s for sure. 

Why is there a traffic jam every morning when everyone goes to work to sit in an office and work on a computer connected to the internet? Imagine how many fewer traffic accidents there would be if we didn't all move at the same time. 

Why do companies hate, really hate, the idea of letting their employees work from home, or a shared space, or a library or a coffee shop. Is their leadership really so shit that they cannot trust their staff to be productive? 

Why are we still counting the hours instead of the productivity? 

But more to the point: why do we still put up with it? 

So here is my simple question? 

Are you happy? 

On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you?

I’m serious.

I’ll give you a gold star for anything 7 and above.

Anything below: we need to talk.

So click here and send me your number. It’s completely anonymous. 

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Thanks for reading. Have a fine day.

The photo above shows the entrance hall of the swanky library at the new campus of the University of Economics in Vienna.