To work or not to work?

Why is work important?

As occupational therapists, we regard individuals as occupational beings that benefit from active engagement in meaningful occupation 1. A meaningful occupation does not need to be paid or formal employment. The key here is that it needs to be meaningful. You have to enjoy, value, be inspired and look forward to doing it. If we are able to engage in this type of work it is noted that you have a higher chance to not just live successfully, but thrive 1.

Advantage of meaningful occupation:

  •          Beneficial health ‘spin-offs’ 2,3
  •         Achieve individual and social change 1
  •        Freedom of choice = ability to experience well-being 4
  •          Allow you to become more self-directed 5
  •         Develop a sense of agency 5
  •         Develop a more positive self-view 6
  •         When an individual is gainfully employed, they are noted to gain independence and mastery

Therefore as Occupational Therapists we can conclude that occupation, especially gainful employment, has a positive spin-off in any individual’s life, even those that suffer from impairments. We have to also acknowledge the challenges of working in the formal sector such as accessibility, stigma, unreasonable expectations and inherent job trials.

So what can you do?

  •         Firstly discover you passion.

If work is not something that interests you, you will always need someone else to motivate you. Be creative! Look for new opportunities. Start with your interests and hobbies.

  •         Do something within your current limits.

Don’t sacrifice your health. Look for a half day / flexi time job if you have endurance issues. Another great way is to look at small business opportunities such a conscious crafties. Volunteer work is also an option.

  •         Get support

If you start a new job, be upfront about your needs and requirements for reasonable accommodation. The ADA (US) or EEA (S.A) is on your side, within reason. If you struggle with this work through an agency that specifically caters for persons with impairments.

Occupation is said to be the link between body and mind. A lack of occupation could result in poor health and dysfunction7. So strengthen your link and help improve your function!

1)    Wilcock, AA 1993 ‘A Theory of the Human Need for Occupation’, Journal of Occupational Science: Australian, vol. 1, pp. 17-24.
2)    Rebeiro, K L and Cook,  JV 1999 ‘Opportunity, not prescription: An exploratory study of the experience of occupational engagement’ Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, vol. 66, pp.176-187.
3)    Hocking, C 2000 ‘Occupational Science: A stock take of accumulated insights’ Journal of Occupational Science, vol. 7, pp. 58-67.
4)    Hasselkus, BR 2002, The meaning of everyday occupation. U.S.A.: Slack Incorporated.
5)    Polkinghorne, DE 1996 ‘Transforming narratives: From victim to agentic life plots’, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, vol. 50, pp. 229-305.
6)    Dickerson, AE 2000 ‘The power and flow of occupation illustrated through scrapbooking’,  Occupational Therapy in Health Care, vol.12, pp. 127-140.

7)    Kielhofner, G 1992, Conceptual foundations of occupational therapy (1st ed.). Philadelphia: F. A. Davis.


  1. I do not have a paying job, but I do have a passion. My passion takes more time than i used to spend working. Yeah passions are time consuming.


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