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In Labour?

Labour Day – we still celebrate it, that fight our great grandparents won for the eight hour working day.  I thought it odd yesterday though, that it seems to have mostly eroded, and many of us apparently now work almost constantly on one or more of our shiny new mobile gadgets.  Defeated by technology, Great Granddad!  You wouldn’t have seen it coming, of course.  Imagine if you dropped back in today for a visit – what would you think?

I expect you would think we have a pretty cushy life.  That most of us don’t actually ‘work’ at all.  Not like you and Great Grandma did.  There’s not many physical jobs left – either at work or at home.  Machines do most of it.  So to keep fit, we pay to join the gym or something similar.  Then we have to fit that in outside of work of course!  I think you would also think we don’t spend much ‘family’ time.  Most of us sit around looking at screens, rather than talking to each other.  We’re rushing here, there and everywhere.  Some spend more time with friends on Facebook than in their actual company.  In your day, the family would gather around the piano, someone would pick out a tune and you’d all sing.   Or you would read aloud, taking turns and sharing the enjoyment of the story.  Then there were the family sessions, gathered around the radio, either being entertained or catching up on the news.

You’d also probably think that we don’t have much sense of community.  In your day everyone would actually rest  on Sunday, not keep working, and meet at the local church.  There’d be shared lunches after the service, more piano playing and singing.  People really helped each other and genuinely knew their neighbours.  On days off paid work, you worked hard around your own home, or helping the neighbours with theirs.

So I wonder how many people actually took a break on Labour day this year?  And how many still cleared email, or caught up on work.  Here’s some suggestions for how we could celebrate Labour Day in future:

  • Make it a technology free day and spend it with people
  • Have an extended family or neighbourhood gathering and find someone who can play the piano so you can have a sing-a-long
  • Get a group of friends or family together and donate your day to charity or to a neighbour who needs help

Celebrating Labour Day in one of these ways might better honour our ancestors who fought hard for the forty hour working week.  Switching off the technology regularly and giving our time and attention to our friends and family wouldn’t hurt either.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

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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