As a child growing up in Sentul, I recall vividly the shrill of the whistle from the nearby Sentul railways workshop. The shrill, indicated different times of the day, beginning from start of work, start and end of lunch break as well as the end of the work day, at the workshop. To me, the first shrill of the day meant that it was time for my father to leave for work. Although he did not work for the railways, he left home for work and back around the same time as those who worked at the Sentul railways workshop. I looked forward to the shrill of the whistle in the afternoon, as it meant that my father would be back soon for lunch. I looked forward most, to the last shrill of the day. It meant that my father would be back home and more importantly, to take me out to play in the evening.

At that age, I used to wonder what people did when they say they went to work or to the office like the uncles and aunties who lived in the neighbourhood. For some reason, I had this vision of people working around huge steaming metal cauldrons on top of red-hot fiery pits brimming with charcoal, when thinking of work. In my vision, they would stir whatever it was, that was inside the cauldrons, with long rods that looked like oars and add black coals into the fiery pits as necessary.

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Now, I can’t figure out where this vision came from. I can only guess that it must have originated from some scene in a cartoon or a movie. Nevertheless, it stayed stuck in my mind until a few years later when I begun to attend school. On top of the vision, thanks to the shrill of the whistle and the work pattern of my father, I believed that people worked within set hours, six days a week with Saturdays being a short day.

It was in school that I had the “Aha” moment, that doctors, nurses, teachers, shopkeepers, taxi drivers, bus drivers, bus conductors and more, were also other types of work. I can’t recall exactly when this moment hit me. I do think, that the task of filling up one of the many forms in school, which provided three empty spaces to list down the three jobs that I wanted to do when I grew up, contributed to the “Aha” moment.

Of course, this meant that my childhood vision of what work was, took a drastic change. Work did not only mean those that constituted of working around metal cauldrons on fiery pits. Similarly, my understanding of working hours also changed. Work hours and duration of work, were not fixed. The number of work days varied.

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As I grew up, I realised that there were many jobs which were then categorised in a number of ways. There were the office and factory jobs. There were the skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled jobs. There were the regular-hour and shift-based jobs. There were the exciting and mundane jobs. There were the permanent and contract jobs. There were those who were employed and those who were self-employed. There were jobs that were considered safe and those that were considered risky. Similarly, there were all types of working hours and work durations.

Irrespective of what we work as or the hours that goes with it, we all work for a reason or a variety of reasons. Most, if not all, we work to put food on the table, be it for ourselves or our family. We work to put money aside for the future of our children and our retirement. Some may work in order to keep themselves busy, occupied and sane.

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The way we work may also differ. We may work hard or work smart. We may pull in long hours or work efficiently. We may work individually or as part of a team. We may do all the work on our own or share tasks accordingly with others. We may bring work home to be completed at night or during the holidays, or just leave work at the office. We may stress ourselves and everyone else around us or be the calming presence, at work.

Regardless of how we work, we value work that brings value to ourselves and the organisation that we work for. We appreciate working in environments that are open, friendly, flexible, fair, warm and rewarding. We treasure working with wonderful bosses and leaders, who challenge us to go further, motivate us to be better and tells us when we did well or can do better. We enjoy working at organisations that value us, giving us the resources needed to grow and get the job done, indirectly allowing us to contribute positively to the organisations’ health.

So, take a break from the labour that is work and enjoy the holiday that is the Labour Day. Happy Labour Day to all those of you who labour at work. Allow yourself the rest that you need before going back to work.

P.S.: The featured image of this article was sourced from Pexels.