I work a warehouse job. Shipping and receiving; order fulfillment. Tractor-trailers lock onto the docks, we unload the freight, stock gets put away in the racks. Customers place orders, some of us run around like squirrels on amphetamine picking the parts to let others carefully package each item before we kick cartons back out the door. It’s a fast-paced, physical thing we do.

     Our company builds and sells products in the “Outdoor Power Equipment” category. All kinds of machines and tools to take care of properties ranging from suburban lawns to rural homesteads. Some of the stuff is large (brush mowers) and goes out as truck freight. Other items are tiny (rubber O-rings for carburetors) and fit in a mailing envelope. Most of the seven thousand other SKUs in stock fall somewhere in between. As a distribution center, we’re called on to handle and ship all of it.

     Handling all these items can be a challenge. The procurement guys (buyers) are looking to minimize unit cost and account for lead times, so instead of getting only the few air filters that you need to stock a shelf, you end up getting a whole case. It goes that way throughout the inventory…. need 100 throttle cables? You get a crate of 850. Work order calls for 500 bottles of oil? It takes two months to get those in, so the shipment that arrives is fourteen pallets of 1008 each. It’s never “just enough” of a product coming in the door.

     The point is that there is no shortage of heavy things to move or physical labor to be done.

     It would be perfect for improving my strength and conditioning, yet I go out of my way to make things easier.

     We’ll go out of our way to make things less work. Why pick up and move a carton by hand when there’s two forklifts, a fleet of pallet jacks, platform carts, dollies, and a man-lift waiting to save you some effort? Need to shift those cartons of rubber belts over a few feet? I’ll walk all the way across a 25,000 sq.ft. warehouse – passing multiple pallet jacks – to jump on the forklift and move them…just because it’s “easier”. I don’t want to go through the hassle of doing something the “hard way”.

     Then I clock out and head to the gym…to lift heavy things.

     Why do I do that? My co-workers are the same way. Why do some of us treat job-related work as undesirable and recreation-related work as somehow more worthy of exertion? Is it a case of “having to lift that box” vs “getting to lift this bar”? Is this human nature? Just how we are?

     All I know is that I’m feeling a little conflicted about this whole thing.

     What do you think? Is this just human nature or is there something else going on? Y’all discuss it and get back to me. I’ll be over by the east-wall racking….looking for a wheelie cart so I can move a roll of bubble-wrap down the aisle.