The Classical Work Box Model Explored

TLDR Summary

This model has been around since cave man days, with all of it's goodies and badies. What other models exist? Don't believe me? Check out this chart I made for this other article called How the Work Box has Changed Over Time.

Work Box Models vs Time

The Classical Model Still Exists

When living with the Modern Work Box model it's sometimes hard to remember that the Classical Work Box model still exists. This is the model that most of our parents lived through and is still alive and well today. If you've read How the Work Box has Changed Over Time then you're familiar with the the Classical vs the Modern model. If not, you can probably imagine it pretty quick. You go to school and learn to be a mechanic, get a job being a mechanic with a big company, steadily work your way up to the level your ambitions take you, and then retire with your gold watch and a mechanically greasy pat on the back.

It sounds pretty awesome in a lot of ways, so if this appeals to you then seek it out, it does exist. Let's dig a bit deeper into some of the pros and cons.

Benefits of the Classical Work Box Model

I've borrowed a couple of the benefits here from this post on Forbes that argues staying in your current job for 10+ years may be good for you. With all these benefits it's easy to see why some people from previous generations - my father included - throw their hands up in the air when they've found out their child has yet another new job... what is this world coming to?!?

Time to Become an Expert

The Classical Work Box model lends well to becoming an expert at something and experts in things garner respect. If you work for 10 years as an account manager in a Fortune 500 company you'll no doubt have a solid depth of knowledge in that field. This expertise can be leveraged if you ever decide to jump out of the Classical Work Box model and into the new. Your deep skill will be valuable to smaller companies or may allow you to start a freelance / consulting company of your own.

Seniority and Leadership Opportunities

Climbing the corporate ladder wasn't just for your grandpa, it's still a thing today. With each rung you gain a little more power, respect, and control over how things are done. Classically this is how people go from a corporate plebe to a manager of the plebes to a manager of the plebe managers, you get the picture. Time in the job won't lead to automatic ladder ascension but if you're motivated and good at what you do more seniority and leadership opportunities are bound to follow.

The Corporate Ladder

Increased Benefits

We've all been there. In an entry level position with 2 weeks of vacation a year, working our butts off, and envying the senior workers who use their 4 weeks of vacay to hit the beaches of Fiji or the links in Hawaii. Well, the only solace I can offer you is they were once on 2 weeks of holiday a year as well. It's not much solace I know, but they paid some dues with years of their life and now they should enjoy the crap out of their extra 2 weeks.

Generally working longer within a specific company entitles you to better benefits. More vacation time, sick leave, flexibility in hours, and maybe even Christmas bonuses. If working hard for years to get better benefits isn't your thing you could always learn to speak Austrian-German and go work in Austria where workers are given a minimum of 38 paid leave days a year by law.

Dutch Wanna Be


If you've chosen your career and workplace carefully then you should have a clear path of growth within the company and the company stands a low risk of going under. The Classical Work Box model should work out well for you. Taking extra care to choose wisely is... wise.

Think about your profession, will it be needed in 40 years? Think about your business, will it still be successful in 40 years? If the answer to both of those questions is yes (to the best of your knowledge) then you're set, put your nose on the grindstone and settle in for a good 40-year-long nose sharpening.

The Career Grindstone

A Steady Routine

Some may look at this as a negative but there is something deeply good for humans to have a routine. It allows you to plan your future financially and time-wise (day to day logistics and also vacations). It gives you a clear structure to adhere to. Ultimately, routine allows you to build the life you want around your work. By locking down your work-life into a relatively stable routine it frees you up to work on other areas of your life. Relationships, hobbies, education, etc. You get to play legos with all the rest as long as you can stick to the routine of your work.

Human's may even be hard wired for routine. This smart looking Ph.D. psychologist wrote a blog post of the science behind it on Psychology Today where he discusses early development with languages and ego but somehow includes a reference to the movie Ground Hog's Day at the same time, well done sir.

Negatives of the Classical Work Box Model


This is not an automatic negative but a big risk you face when following the Classical Work Box model. You might be someone who can do the same thing every day at work for 40 years but a lot of people fall into a rut when they've been in one profession at one company for an extended period of time.

This can be mitigated by changing your role within the company regularly. Steadily "climbing the corporate ladder" could be enough of a change to break the boredom. Whatever happens, you don't want to end up like the guy from Office Space where every day is the worst day of your life.

Risk of Being Made Redundant

Ugh, that redundancy word feels heavy to type. Everyone reading this has probably known someone who was made redundant. This happened to a family member of mine when she was within 2 years of retirement and it was a devastating blow.

The risk here is that you've done one job for a company for 30 years, you're close to retirement, and your company has to let you go for some reason. If you're lucky and your profession is still in demand you'll probably land another job but it'll put a serious damper on your retirement plans. If you're unlucky, for example it was your job to build cars in Detroit, then you'll have to find a new profession all together.

The Classical Work Box model doesn't give your career much strength against unplanned events like redundancy. If you've chosen your career and your company wisely then the risk is small but the consequences are large. Just something to keep in mind.

Slower Growth in Skills

This one is subjective but let's plow ahead anyways. The Classical Work Box model can lead to comfort and with that comfort can come a lackadaisical approach to developing new skills. Everyone knows the feeling of starting a new job and how it stretches your abilities. The first weeks, months, and possibly years are stressful because no one starts off good at their job. You've got to acquire the skills in order to complete your role in comfort. Though, once this level of mastery is reached the potential for new growth has greatly diminished.

If getting better is your jam, and I think it should be one of everyone's goals, it's important to stay aware of this con to the Classical Work Box model. You'll have to actively work against it to keep acquiring new skills throughout your career.

There's No Right or Wrong

As a young man I fought this model, I thought "why would anyone want to work at a corporation?" I now have friends and family who've chosen this model and I've seen first hand the benefits that come with it.

If you've chosen this model for your own life I'd love to hear about it. Hit me up via email at rick at theboxesoflife dot com or in the comments below.

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