Not too long ago, I watched a movie called Office Space. It’s a late 90’s comedy film about working in a mind-numbing office job. Although I do not work in an office job, I have a few people close to me who do. In fact, the reason I watched this movie was because my partner thought it was a real yet hilarious insight into his days at work. And that is what this movie does great, it adds comedy to the fact that the truth of these jobs is often quite dreary. In a recent addictions course, we talked about the use of drugs for coping with having a desk job, the numbers were staggering. An upsetting number of adults feel the need to use drugs to cope with their careers. These careers are ones that are viewed as good, stable, desirable careers. So why are people struggling to cope with them?
The movie highlights the environment of the workplace. It shows gray walls, gray desks and management that repeats useless information. The hierarchy of positions in the movie emphasizes a lack of care and appreciation for subordinate workers. They show the office position lacking stimulation and enjoyment. The workers are expected to work like computers all day and then go home. There is more work than employees, so everyone is stressed and behind on tasks. The work is depicted as unending, mindless, and lacking gratification and support. It also isn’t just Office Space that portrays desk jobs in this light. Most movies, T.V. shows and even books will describe desk jobs as bland. As I watched my partner laugh and point out how relatable elements of this comedy movie were, I realized how lackluster these jobs are not just in the movie, but in real life for the people working them. Now, my partner enjoyed his position before the global pandemic. They would play Ping-Pong on breaks, Friday afternoon they got ice cream and he had coworkers to chat with. He still found the actual job to be a bit repetitive and not super rewarding, but his office tried to make the office environment worth the work. Since the pandemic, my partner has been working from home, without the environment of the office and expected to produce the same quality and quantity of work.
Based on the way we portray these positions and how people are coping with them, it seems we are straying away from satisfying work environments. Working the same task every day, in what feels like an isolated environment, is unmotivating. You don’t have to love your job but having an environment that makes the dreary work feel not so dreary can uplift employee morale. Workers need to feel appreciated for the work that they do and have satisfaction from their jobs. This can be from building connections with coworkers, workplace activities, support when work is stressful, and praise for a job well done from bosses. There’s a meme that shows employees asking for better wages, working conditions, more health benefits, and hiring more staff as a way to increase the productivity and health of employees. The management responds to these suggestions with a solution of having a pizza party. Unfortunately, these funny representations of the workforce are more realistic than they should be. Nobody’s wage should be so low that they can’t afford basic living. Nobody should feel like drugs are the only way to cope with their desk job. We need to advocate for better treatment of, and environments for, all workers.