"All animals except man know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it."
— Samuel Butler
Work is the engine moving human civilization forward, a must for evolution, where humans, like other animals, have always been working to explore and improve their environment, skills and life. They work for security, pleasure, diversion, pride, helping others ... or collecting money, responding to social pressure, or just the force of habit.
We primarily work to stay "alive & happy," from which all other motives derive. We cannot defeat death or misery; we only delay or decrease them, because we can never remove chance and chaos from the structure of the universe (that can randomly produce life/death/happiness/misery/existence/extinction). Thus, we will "always" work to challenge nature's laws and increase order in the universe and our survival chances. However, the more we evolve, the less we work for security and more for pleasure, that derives from pleasing sensations, ideas, and actions making the world a better place.
Work motives overlap:
As long as there is death we will work to escape, delay or overcome it; and as long as there is misery, we will work to minimize it. We make a "living" to protect our life and satisfy our physical needs, like other animals do. Yet, living "only" to fight insecurities makes life meaningless. Once sufficiently secure, we should develop and satisfy other motives.
We work to feel relatively "comfortable," avoiding want, as well as the "indirect" harms of idleness, physical and mental.
Animals mostly work, fight and kill "to eat," then rest. Humans do the same, indirectly, by working for "money," to get food and whatever else they need. However, once we get enough money, we should stop working for money and work for pleasure, without the incessant pressure of want and insecurity.
Some work for pleasure or with pleasure, but many find no pleasure in what they do, now or later, physical or intellectual. Thus they find no meaning in work, as their inner "barometer" tells them, for missing the fundamental value all values in life derive from: happiness.
A good work leads to pleasure; a better one leads to and is done with pleasure, where reward is there both to enjoy and expect, at present and future. As we discover life, ourselves and others, during and after work, nature automatically rewards us with simultaneous, or after-work natural endorphins.
There are those whose "emotional IQ" is naturally high or boosted by an environment respecting their sense of well-being. Hedonic education is essential for both individual's creativity and emotional balance, to find a purpose in life, survive hardships and mood changes, live on little when forced to, and taste more pleasures when available. Every creature knows all the above naturally; it's only humans who have the knack of intercepting their inner signals.
In the Bible, Adam was kicked out of the Garden of Eden and punished by work. We should "guiltlessly" look back to that permanent state of blissful idleness he lived in, and work to reclaim our paradise. Unblessed are those only looking forward to The END of their work (after-work hours, days, years), enjoying none of the stages of work itself. Their life is "mostly" toiling and suffering. What a pity to meet death after a life like that!
Our body necessities mostly take 1/16 of our waking hours. Likewise, work for necessity should not take much of our life either. Life is not a duty, and not "obligatory" either, as we are always free to take it or leave it. Unless you enjoy your very duty, those who work only out of duty are miserable.
True work gives meaning to life, by a sense of satisfaction for using "all one has" to change and improve life before leaving it. Meanwhile, it simultaneously gives diversion from pain, physical and emotional; work is a natural remedy for many psychological problems: bereavement depression, personality disorders, etc.
Some work for work's sake, by force of habit, that usually leads to little or no creativity. They are merely "urged" by their addiction to work, even when the extra work they do is useless or even harmful, like workaholics do.
Nature imprinted in us habits to develop, good or bad, to easily follow, to save our energy. Working without pleasure gradually turns into a safe mild pleasure itself many accept and get used to, to the point of addiction. They even grow addicted to the harmful insecurities themselves they suppose to stave off by work. They get their endorphin rush from such mindless vicious cycle they would rather run into perpetually than change their habit. Like a game, whenever they achieve victory, they move on from one battle level to the other, looking for more insecurities to fight, forgetting that life is not a war, and peace should be the norm, not fight.
Worse than addiction to work, is addiction to money, that afflicts "money-grubbers." We are supposed to make money for "living," some to spend, some to save, but we don't live for hoarding money we'll never use. Indeed, "money is a friend in need." But it can't and shouldn't be our goal; happiness should. Even if we "re-designed" our brains to love money and enjoy collecting it (e.g. by releasing endorphins after smelling banknotes/credit cards, after an account/salary increase, etc.), it would still be dangerous and gradually lead to our extinction. Money is only a medium to achieve something else with.
Wise men can live on less money to stay "healthy and alive," by simply exercising caution, prevention, and their full citizen rights and benefits. As for the pleasure part, they have plenty of cheap pleasures to choose from, many of which are nearly free and universal: public/nature places, intellectual pleasures, etc.
Conversely, a money-grubber spends his entire life building, furnishing, and decorating a house he may never live in. Eventually, when it's time to enjoy what he worked for, he fails, because he becomes "emotionally handicapped." So, he and his ilk seek help by someone else with a keener sense of pleasure and joie-de-vivre, to guide him through and help him enjoy: a young wife, funny employee, good-natured chauffeur, etc. His pleasures become as primitive as his undeveloped immature character is, since learning to enjoy wasn't part of his upbringing or education. He can be a famous millionaire competing with another to win the heart of a young female, who happens to love neither. Or a nouveau-riche who doesn't evolve personally as he does financially, sticking to "the same old same old" all his life, not out of nostalgia, but ignorance about other life possibilities. Without someone else's guidance, he may never develop a taste for fine arts, for example, although he can still be seen in a gallery or concert, probably snoring. He eats in gourmet restaurants with business associates, but his real passion is his mama's old pudding. He tells old jokes nobody laughs at, and he doesn't get the new ones either. He can't laugh because life's contradictions don't inspire or concern him. He likes straight lines and strict rules to follow, else he will get lost. He likes his yoke.
We work for pride. True pride derives from what one believes and needs from a job, benefiting oneself and society, notwithstanding others' views. Yet some derive pride merely from their public image and CONFORMING to society, that mostly disrespects unconventional/irregular/stay-home/self-employed/non-profit jobs, while respecting traditional jobs, even those with less value to individuals themselves or to society. As work constantly evolves, by the time a truly valuable and profitable job becomes mainstream, it loses much of its social value and financial profit.
Work, in its common popular sense, is a physical necessity one must satisfy, without taking much pride in that, personally and publicly, UNLESS it transcends that physical and personal role and affects other aspects of one's and others' life. Yet, some take pride in jobs they can't even enjoy, bragging how it's difficult or strenuous. The "paradox of work" is that good work helps us work less and make life easier, not make us work more.
As in the creative, romantic, post-industrial era, once necessities satisfied, the Idol of Labor should collapse, and the legitimate Baal of Pleasure rise.
Most people work in jobs with no great value to society, because of lack of coordination between jobs (for maximum "collective" benefit), individual's greed, over-fears, and close-mindedness. Every job needs regular assessment to measure the benefit one/society gains from, and to take it to another LEVEL, using it as a tool to maximally "improve the world," for present and future generations. The more others benefit from our job, the greater its meaning, and happier, more motivated and creative we become. It's rightful then to turn it into a habit, temporarily, as creativity needs time and patience for one's work to bear fruits. Eventually, we deservingly take pride in what we did.
In civilized countries, more people work to solve the "bigger problems" of humanity, affecting them and other countries (poverty, war, crime, natural catastrophes, diseases, energy shortage, etc.), unlike those in the less civilized ones, where people work mostly to provide for themselves and their families, daily striving to satisfy their basic needs (food, medicine, rent, etc.), spending most of their lifetime fending off the dangers of hunger, disease, homelessness and death, just like animals do. Their life almost becomes like a constant escape from death!
It is the job of government, that randomly brought the latter to life without preparation: a mistake no one can pay for and correct better than the government and legislature who initially allowed it to happen. We should not take lives, but also never give it to a person or animal we don't need. Rather, we improve the life of those we already have, by stabilizing the number of the self-sufficient, lessening that of the poor, and encouraging increase of those who are rich, physically and intellectually. Mobility between the different groups is always another better solution, allowing diversity and saving time and energy, but only when a pre-calculated harmony is learned.
Responsibility falls on ignorant parents too, who should also pay for their mistakes (although Big Mistakes are usually made by politicians, who unfortunately know how to get away with it). However, a man has to cope with whatever environment he is put in until it changes; or he changes it, or changes himself, or leaves it temporarily, or permanently, if change is ever foreseeable.
Evolution is the nature of work, that no wonder we mock past obsolete jobs, and mock, fear or misunderstand future ones we will have (probably, "stunts" rather than regular jobs, as civilization and changes accelerate). Everyday there are new jobs created/gone obsolete, more wanted/unwanted, growing more/less lucrative, becoming regular/occasional, etc.
"Mental jobs" evolve faster than physical jobs, just as the brain evolves faster than other organs whose eventual fate is atrophy. For this scientists must further understand the human brain; every activity in every lobe and every neuron movement must be charted. Human intelligence must be boosted, not by stimulants, but efficient devices targeting every area of the brain. On the other hand, machines, computers and robots are developing fast, outperforming and replacing humans themselves. Artificial Intelligence is increasing too, at a much faster pace than humans'. Scientists predict that artificial intelligence will exceed human intelligence in a few decades in most aspects of life. Humans will only have to give orders; they are masters and robots are slaves, because the latter miss that precious gift the former have: life.