I came across this post the other day from Fast Company titled The New Rules of Work. Fast Company always posts great content and like most posts at Fast Company, there's a breathless excitement to this title. The New Rules of Work. Exciting.
In this chaotic business world we all want to know the new rules of work, right? I have two impressions of the workforce (contractors, employees, consultants, work-at-home, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, interns) :
1. Just tell me. Just tell me the rules, whatever they are. Provide a tiny bit of structure ... so we can get on with it: life and work. It's fun and exciting to discover new possibilities, but you know sometimes I just need to get work done. That requires rules. So show me these rules and I'll get'r done.
2. Denial, Self-Delusion, Fear. No one's going to admit that the 'new rules' ... sometimes aren't cool or we don't think they're cool or we're not cool enough to get how cool they are or, gasp, we don't even know what the rules are. Fake it till we make it ... and hope no one sees through the charade.
I go back and forth, myself. I like being able to carve out my own direction, flailing and learning, sometimes winning, often failing, and connecting with new people - some are great, some ... not. They say the same about me, I expect.
So with great expectations of learning these new rules and their new world order I read this article hoping. And I came away thinking if these are the new rules, then it's all a great big game of bait-and-switch.
The bait is the promise of technology, the field-leveler, the work on 'our' schedule when we're inspired and focused and the kids are asleep (Okay, I don't have kids, not even a pet, but I've had pets in the past.)
The author wrote:
Technology may be the great enabler, but the impulse is deeply human: we want to live life on our terms in the place we are most comfortable, and we can work there, too.
Cool. Fair and balanced, too. Sorta. But looking back it was a warning. If this was a netflix show there'd be the usual ominous sounds in the background. I missed them the first time I read the article.
As I read it, hoping to find the keys to the kingdom, the one where I ruled some of the time ... I found things like this:
New Rule: You’re on call 24-7.
the same screens that connect us to many aspects of our personal lives are also the means of production. According to a 2013 survey by the American Psychological Association, "More than half of employed adults said they check work messages at least once a day over the weekend." Almost the same number also did so before or after work on weekdays and during sick days. A full 44% even do it while on vacation.
When I read that rule I hear Sucker! Technology may be the great enabler ... it enables you to work 24-7 as you're always reachable and the tools of your trade are always accessible. Companies are using the great enabler to track you on your personal time, too.
New Rule: For Better Or Worse The Line Between Work And Life Is Almost Entirely Disappearing.
Companies are obsessed with work-life balance, says André Spicer of the City University Business School in London—"but the more people talk about it, the less it seems to actually exist. The realities of contemporary work involve a complete blurring of work and life. We try to establish barriers but they are constant knocked down." (1)
The problem with "Do What You Love," says Tokemitsu, is that "it leads not to salvation, but to the devaluation of actual work . . . Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace." Instead of enabling the good life, work gobbles it up entirely.
Self-actualization, says Carl Cederström of the Stockholm Business School, "is not necessarily something we want, but something that we’re required to do." (2)
This is a tricky one. I'm not going to spew inarticulate, unsubstantiated, generalizations about the old days, pre-Industrial Age, a nation of shopkeepers and farmers or those days before that or how children followed in the footsteps of their parents by working beside them in an intern/apprenticeship program with the family business.
(1) - The tricky part is who holds the power for balancing work vs life. Right now, it's work or business. They hold an inordinate amount of power, that's why work intrudes - okay it overruns our personal lives with all the usual symptoms of imbalance we see in our health, families, social discourse and order. (That's worth a separate post. Ask and I shall deliver. )
(2) - When self-actualization, like religions (Christian, Muslim, Hindu ... or Sports or Exercise or Drinkin' or politically correct speech ...) are required ... then we've relinquished the right to live our life as we choose, for our values and our needs - social, family, individual. Technology may be the great enabler is the bait. In reality, if this requirement comes true, then Technology may be the great enslaver.