I often speak to people about some things that they find startling. That’s my vision of the future of work. I’m going to share those ideas here. They are not popular, because they are not in sync with what is and what we have been taught to think about concepts like laziness, exertion, and effort. First I’ll go over some of the ideas that we currently have about work and why they are toxic and must be fazed out of our society. See also my blog post on my thoughts about how companies need us to have needs.
Working 40 hours a week.
Why 40 hours? Why not 36, or 42, or 20? Where did this number come from? It is absolutely arbitrary. Yet, it traverses the allotted work schedules of people across tremendously variant fields and positions. It is nonsensical to work for a specific amount of time each week. If you have worked on your own projects or in collaboration, you know that your work load varies week per week, even if you are performing the same tasks. What ends up happening for a lot of office workers that I have spoken to is that a lot of the time, we end up having to come up with creative ways to pretend to be working. That’s exhausting.
Beyond having to come up with ways to appear like we’re working, humans don’t have the stamina to work in sets of 8 hour intervals. Sure, we may take breaks. But when we are on the clock, we are supposed to be on. It’s not reasonable to expect humans to perform consistently for 8 hours 5 days a week. From my experience with the creative process and working as a freelancer, I enter waves of extreme concentration. This may last a couple of hours. Then I have to walk away from my desk and do a more tactical task like cleaning or walking outside. There’s also an unspoken rule in offices that you’re lazy or odd if you take breaks. Anyone working in an office has felt the icy judgment of management (and even coworkers) upon taking a short break to see the sunlight.
Further, there are many weeks where I work more than 40 hours because I don’t feel that there is enough mental stimulation at my work to keep me satisfied. So I engage in freelance gigs to work my brain more rigorously. The amount of hours of work we do per week has no bearing on satisfaction, only the work that we do. We should be free to work the hours that we need to “get the job done” and then focus on different activities that are self-enriching. Can you imagine a workplace that trusted employees to do their best, and work only the hours that they need in order to complete the tasks assigned?
Most people talking about work-life balance on LinkedIn are full of shit. For example, I read a post last week written by a manager. She said that her new employee was terrified that she would be mad at her for getting a flat tire and being late to work as a result. The boss said that she reassured the employee that there was a work-life balance at the new company, and that the employee should not be afraid. That’s not work-life balance. We are still very childish when it comes to understanding work-life balance. It’s not whether or not someone should be able to respond to life occurrences like a flat tire. That’s ridiculous.
Work-life balance still does not address the extent of humanness, which encompasses individuals dealing with mental health, their personal lives, illness, and more. Work places do not allow room for simple human needs like an extra hour on lunch on a difficult day for the employee to be able to go to a park and meditate. We don’t see humans as humans in the work place. Employees are still treated like they are producers. The rampant incline of mental health talk should be bringing about quicker change in this arena. But we are still stuck in Ford’s time. Efficiency at all costs. And we call work-life balance not being pissed when someone gets a flat tire. We call work-life balance letting someone go to the doctor. We call work-life balance allowing someone to go home when they are sick.
We need to do away with hierarchal structure in the workplace. When we treat people in the manner of a caste system, then they will reflect those roles back to us. For example, if I go into work each day and am treated as if I am an imbecile, I will act accordingly, because that is the manner in which I will be seen. There is no amount that I can “prove myself” to shift the views of people adamant about viewing me in a particular light. If, instead, we viewed people in their strengths and their light, we would see that they act much more in favor of the company.
After all, it’s called a company for a reason. We take company with a group of people and tackle a common goal. When we have implementations of a hierarchal structure, then we are no longer a company, but a caste system that operates out of fear and illusion. The illusion is that some people in this world hold more importance than others. We all hold importance in our own strengths (and weaknesses!). Society has conditioned us to see the world in roles. We are conditioned to aspire to these roles, and others are set as gatekeepers. There is no hierarchy in the natural world, only the wains of cycles. We can feign to hold caste systems in the workplace, but those are fabrications meant to stroke egos.
The future of work.
These are the projections that I have about the future of work. Those who say that they are unreasonable are the same that thrive on the hierarchy and lack of change. They may not recognize that there is a lot of work to do outside of a standard job. We are entering an era of increasing flux and change, especially with the speed at which technology and interpersonal relationships are driving us.
- We will work towards the achievement of tasks and goals, regardless of hours spent.
- We will accommodate for mental health and real life outside of traditional work.
- We will work as collaborators, not in a caste system.
I see these changes happening in the realm of self-employment especially. We have tremendously talented and forward-thinking individuals who are taking their futures into their own hands. They are turning their backs on cubicles, office gossip, and inflated egos. They are buckling down and creating themselves. They are pushing the boundaries that we put on ourselves through society’s teachings. There is no more room for us to make ourselves crazy working in a very specific and very toxic way. We must expand consciousness to allow for humanness to enter work.