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What work?

Tomorrow is Labour Day in New Zealand (yes we do spell it with a ‘u’ in there!). It’s a day off work for many people and recognized in our legislation as an official public holiday.  It was set up to celebrate the efforts of those that achieved the 40 hour work week decades ago.  That might seem a bit of a joke now to many, who work more like 50 – 60 hours a week.  And also to the many un and under – employed, who are unable to find enough paid work.

Not only has the structure of work changed for many, but what we now call ‘work’ has changed too.  Who doesn’t spend much of their day in front of a computer?  Even my doctor has a PC on his desk and taps away throughout an appointment.  It’s mostly ‘knowledge’ work now where we are paid for our experience, creativity, innovation and relationships rather than for producing something.  Presumably we all add value and somehow result in someone, somewhere producing something.  Or does the money just go around without anyone actually producing anything tangible?  I suspect that is the case much of the time.   Many of the products and services I provide clients are intangible and many of the products and services I buy are the same.

So is what you do, work?  And if so, is it work because it is paid, or is it work because it produces something?  Or is it work because you feel tired at the end of it?  In future, what will work look like?  Will we work at all – or will robots do it all?  If so, how will we get paid?

Many of these issues have been raised by greater minds than mine, perhaps most compellingly by Jeremy Rifkin in his ‘The Future of Work’.  However, as a global society, we have not resolved many, if any, of the issues.  Going forward what skills will we need to find work that is fulfilling and that pays enough to provide for us and our families?  Will we all effectively be self-employed, and in portfolio careers?

What do you think?


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Categories: Business and Strategy
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