Paid in sunsets: a seasonal working life

Document
Description

Overwork is a long documented social problem in the United States linked to an abundance of negative outcomes. Typically this issue has been addressed organizationally at the individual level or

Overwork is a long documented social problem in the United States linked to an abundance of negative outcomes. Typically this issue has been addressed organizationally at the individual level or socially as an economic structural problem. While both approaches are valid in their own ways, missing from these angles is an approach to overwork from an individual perspective. This study explores overwork from the perspective of seasonal workers in Glacier National Park who typically work for the National Park Service five months and spend the rest of the year recreating. Using qualitative interviews and observations, this piece investigates a seasonal mentality towards work in terms of agency and trust, conceptions and practices of work and life, and in terms of embodiment and spirituality. Grounded theory methods were used to develop an axiomatic analysis which informs a poetic and narrative expression of findings in concert to the discussion and implications of the study. The findings of this study illustrate how seasonal workers present a fascinating alternative to traditional work arrangements in a capitalist system. They possess a unique approach to work and life that foregrounds life experience, freedom, and process as opposed to material goods or stability. They tend to approach work and life as an integrated and holistic pursuit as opposed to a segregated and problematic enterprise. And they tend to approach their work as an embodied and spiritual craft as opposed to something accomplished quickly and efficiently for the economic benefit of the organization. Implications of this research suggest that agency and trust maintain a deeply interconnected and dialectical relationship which agents navigate as they build towards ontological security; that re-conceptualizing work-life as "life first" has potential for fundamentally reshaping the ways life (and work) get experienced; and that divisions between minds and bodies as they have been typically structured between white and blue collar work might be interrupted via the inclusion of the human spirit at work. These findings interrupt common practices of overwork in different ways but primarily function as a reminder that ways of thinking coincide with ways of living and working.