Work Ethics

The following story reflects a lot of what I’ve been wrestling with in recent months. Well not really wrestling but just thinking it through quite often.

I now get off work between 5 and 5.30 and hardly ever work on weekends or at night. There is always tons of work but quite often – almost always – I don’t go out of my way to complete as much as possible. If I did I wouldn’t have been able to avoid working later and possibly also work on weekends.

This is a change I have undergone in recent years. Maybe like the writer below said, it is a change as a result of having lived and worked here in recent years, where it’s ok to head home at “home time” and not worry about working longer or harder beyond that. In fact, in my previous comparable job (where I was working late and on weekends) I have had friends say to me why I bothered coming to Australia if I worked like that. I might as well have remained in Asia. That was 4+ years ago now.

After a short stint in state government and a not-for-profit concern, my return to my old haunt has entailed a much more laidback approach. There are the odd post 6pm’s and occasional weekend work. But those are rare and far in between. By and large I am now an 8-5 worker with no weekend work. Is this good?

I am reading through the intricate accounts of the latter half of Exodus and the start of Leviticus and one of the messages that came out of this part of the Scriptures is that work to strive for excellence is something which either the Lord requires or would please Him. The attention to details on matters such as construction of the ark, the washing utensils, the altar, the lampstand, the tabernacle and the priests attire is an eye opening revelation. 

I had in the past, laboured through this section of my sequential reading by trying to ascertain the symbolism and functionalities of these apparatus. Little did it dawn on me that the simple and sheer emphasis on good craftsmanship, attention to details and commitment to beauty and quality are all given recognition too, in these narratives.  

Does that say something about our work? Maybe it does. I think Paul too alluded to the giving of one’s best while at work. Does that entail working beyond designated working hours? What if dedication to quality and good workmanship requires long working hours? Is the modern day exaltation of quality of life and/or work life balance over-rated? Certainly the designated working hours is a modern day invention – probably to ensure labour is not exploited by owners of capital. So are we to seek shelter if to do so is not to seek protection from exploitation but to protect our own enjoyment of that part of our lives which are outside of work?

It’s probably a fine line. Maybe it is all to do with the heart and the intention and bona fides of each worker. If I work long hours to deliver good workmanship and not because I want to get ahead of my colleague and grab that promotion at his expense, maybe then I shouldn’t be working those long hours. Ditto if promotion is replaced by other forms of “rewards” like a fatter bonus or increment. If I am committed for no other reason than good workmanship maybe it is acceptable.

I guess the countervailing factor is our commitment to our family. Maybe work-life balance in terms of actually spending non-working hours with our spouses and children is not over-rated and warrant cutting short our working hours. One can go on and set out different scenarios I guess but I think it is probably settled in my mind, that working long hours per se is not necessarily something God would not want me to do…

It’s just crazy being lazy by: TANIA DE JONG |From: The Australian |January 30, 2014

EARLIER this month I was down at Manly Beach on a perfect Sydney summer Sunday. Lying on my towel, I noticed a vibrant guy talking in a foreign language that turned out to be Spanish.

His name was Jose, and he was at the beach with his wife and kids. He’d been in Australia only a few months. I asked him what he thought of this special land and he said he loved it. I asked what had brought him here and he said he was looking to work in another country and asked the multinational company for which he worked if he might transfer to Australia. They agreed.

He told me that in Spain he used to work most days until 7pm, often even later, and on weekends. At work in Sydney he was asked how long it would take to complete a certain project. He said three days. The unbelieving manager said the work usually took them two to three weeks. Sure enough, Jose completed the job in three days.

He was also being paid much more in Australia for doing similar work to what he did in Spain.

However, after a few months here, Jose said he now just works like everyone else. He doesn’t go above and beyond to complete things quickly because everyone just expects the team to work at the same rate. Those who try to get ahead are frowned upon. Now he is always home by 5.15pm and never works weekends. Unsurprisingly, he says life is great here in Australia.

What sort of culture do we have where achievers put their heads in the sand just to conform? Are we teaching our children that it’s OK just to be OK? Who would ever bother being an entrepreneur in this country? And why would anyone ever start a company in Australia?

We are an ingenious people, but we have ridden on our luck, especially in relying on our natural resources to get us through. But being lucky is no longer enough. We need to act now to harness our potential or we will be remembered as a country that blew its chances of economic greatness: another Argentina.

Don’t get me wrong, Australians aren’t short of great ideas, but the costs of labour, rigid workplace cultures, risk-averse managements and a belief that government is there to pick up the pieces when businesses go wrong together make for a climate toxic to innovation.

Our default complacency, with our leisure-loving lifestyles, and pay and conditions more generous than we can afford, affect our productivity and ability to compete on a global stage with leaner, hungrier and more internationalised economies.

We are losing much of our innovative and entrepreneurial talent to other nations that promote innovation and celebrate achievement. That applies to businesses, too. To sustain our national lifestyle, our economy needs to grow, and growth depends on individual courage, imagination and entrepreneurship. We need policy, regulatory, taxation and cultural changes to help innovation flourish. Creative leaders and entrepreneurs should be feted like sporting stars and, indeed, heroic failures honoured just as much as successes. Australia should be a place where being good is something to be proud of, where trying to be the best is worthwhile in itself.


Jose feeling that he had to dumb himself down to fit into the “manana is good enough for me” mentality in his Australian workplace not only is a shame, but reflects poorly on all of us.

Tania de Jong AM is a soprano, social entrepreneur and speaker.