What's your problem?

Five years ago, my father sold the medium-sized IT company that he founded. Part of the deal was for him to stay with the company for another three years as a full-time managing director before taking a back seat. Two years past this, he's still working long hours.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Although his contribution is greatly valued at the firm, I'm sure that they could manage without him. He's in his mid-60s and I worry about his health. How do I put it to him that he should calm down?

A: Not for the first time, I'm reminded of the absurd elasticity we accord the word 'work'. Some people hate every moment of it, can't wait to retire, become immediately rejuvenated when they do and are still playing golf at 89. And others love it, get vast personal satisfaction from it, are no longer dependent on it for income but would probably carry on doing it for nothing if it came to the choice.

We badly need two words for work: one to represent what we do out of necessity but with little or no joy, and another quite different word to represent that which, second perhaps only to family, may be the main source of a life's pleasure. Some work only to live. Some live for their work. How can the same small word do justice to both?

Your father doesn't need to work, yet chooses to do so, probably because it still provides him with purpose and satisfaction. Work of a satisfying kind can be hugely beneficial to the health.

Only if you feel sure that his health is starting to suffer should you gradually encourage him to get involved in less demanding activities. Otherwise, there are many, many people in their mid-sixties who'd happily swap places with him.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office is published by Penguin at £6.99. Address your problem to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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