Tag Archives | Work

What Would A World Without Work Be Like?

What comes next? Via the Guardian, Nina Power argues that work is becoming obsolete:

As with all major institutional entities – law, prison, education – to question work is to tamper with reality itself. As with law, prison and education, it is almost always “never a good time” to talk about reform, or the abolition of existing structures.

But as wages bear less and less relation to the cost of living, it seems as good a time as any to ask if the underlying fantasy is that employers will one day be able to pay their workers nothing at all, because all those issues like housing, food, clothing, childcare will somehow be dealt with in another, mysterious, way.

Against the backdrop of rising inflation, increasing job insecurity, geographically asymmetrical unemployment, attacks on the working and non-working populations, and cuts to benefits – a debate about what work is and what it means has been taking place.

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Corporate Workfare Arrives In British Classrooms

Red Pepper explains the United Kingdom’s new “studio schools,” under which teenagers spend half their day performing menial jobs for corporate sponsors for little or no pay, with the (accurate) purpose being to prepare them for the real world:

Launched quietly in 2010, studio schools allow private businesses to run state education for 14 to 19-year-olds with learning ‘on the job’ and not in the classroom.

Almost any business can set up a studio school by paying a voluntary subscription of just £8,000 to the government. In return, the government builds and maintains a school, but the power to run the school remains firmly in the hands of private sponsors. National Express, GlaxoSmithKline, Sony, Ikea, Disney, Michelin, Virgin Media and Hilton Hotels are just some of the corporate players who have bought into the scheme.

Predictably, these sponsor firms only pay the minimum wage – and that’s only for their over-16 students.

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Are We Headed Toward An Economy Based Around Serving Rich People?

Via Alternet, Sam Pizzigati ponders the jobs of the future, with masses clamoring for the opportunity to cater to the rich:

We’re well on the way to becoming a full-fledged “servant economy.” Most Americans no longer make things. They provide services.

Young people can become engineers and programmers and spend their careers in pitiless competition with people all over the world just as smart and trained but willing to work for much less. Or they can join the servant economy and “service those few at the top who have successfully joined the global elite.”

In this new “servant economy,” we’re not talking just nannies and chauffeurs. We’re talking, as journalist Camilla Long notes, “pilots, publicists, art dealers, and bodyguards” — a “newer, brighter phalanx of personal helpers.”

Want to see the world? In the new servant economy, you can become a “jewelry curator” and voyage to foreign lands to pick up gems for wealthy clients.

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Smile Scanners For Workers Introduced In Japan

Soon the start of the workday will entail submitting to your daily smile scan, the Guardian reports:

A Japanese train company is scanning its employees to make sure they smile properly. Each morning, according to reports, the 500 or so employees of the Keihin Electric Express Railway Company have to beam stupidly into a camera hooked up to a computer. The machine then analyses things like eye movement, lip curvature and facial wrinkles, and rates the overall quality of their smile on a scale ranging from 0 (suicidal) to 100 (delirious).

Apparently, should the computer deem workers to be too gloomy it flashes up helpful advice like “You still look too serious”, or “Lift up your mouth corners”. It then prints out a personalised “ideal smile” for employees to carry with them and refer to should they feel their spirits flagging at any point during the day.

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Emotional Labor In The Happiest Place On Earth

BPS Occupational Digest discusses the model pioneered by Disney of what is termed “emotional labor” — the mandatory extreme cheeriness and masterful mood control which has become a widespread part of service industry work:

Walt himself, having observed frowns and negativity on tours of the grounds, insisted on Disney University, a mandatory training process for every employee, that more than anything else is an extended emotion regulation regime…trainees are taken through methods of managing facial and voice cues to maintain a happy, relaxed, and accessible approach. This is effectively a masterclass in surface acting.

However, research suggests that Disney employees actively involved in surface acting are more likely to experience emotional exhaustion. This accords with broader evidence that surface acting is hard work. Other research indicates that buttoning back anger is the hardest thing to do for Disney employees, and having to keep doing so is a major driver of emotional exhaustion.

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Riot Police Arrest Walmart Warehouse Workers On Strike Against Abysmal Working Conditions

Via Buzzfeed, activist Daneyvilla took an snapped photos as a veritable army of riot police cracked down on a demonstration by several hundred completely peaceful, largely middle-aged Walmart warehouse employees. From the workers’ website, the reason for the strike:

No one should come to work and endure extreme temperatures, inhale dust and chemical residue, and lift thousands of boxes weighing up to 250lbs with no support. Workers never know how long the work day will be- sometimes its two hours, sometimes its 16 hours. Injuries are common, as is discrimination against women and illegal retaliation against workers who speak up for better treatment.

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The Positive Effects of a Deviant Coworker

Picture: Flickr, uberphot (CC

Even more possible evidence that the weirdos of the world provide crucial social utility! Researchers at Wichita State University have published their findings in the Journal of Social Psychology.

Via Discover Magazine‘s Discoblog:

“Drawing on the labeling perspective of deviance, we investigate employee reactions to coworkers perceived as deviants. We look at two positive effects for employees in the presence of a deviant coworker. First, in comparison to a deviant individual, other employees can draw more positive conclusions about themselves; and second, a deviant can be informative about organizational norms, thereby improving employee role clarity. We also examine individual and situational moderators. For the purpose of the study, we developed a measure of the presence of a deviant. The hypothesized relationships were tested in two large samples using multiple regression analyses. The results revealed that in the presence of a deviant coworker, employees reported enhanced self-evaluation.

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The Most Boring Culture On Earth

Kottke on the indigenous Baining people of Papua New Guinea, who when awake scarcely do anything but work, out of the belief that unstructured fun is a waste of time. One wonders if we are drifting in their direction:

The Baining eschew everything that they see as “natural” and value activities and products that come from “work,” which they view as the opposite of play. Work, to them, is effort expended to overcome or resist the natural. To behave naturally is to them tantamount to behaving as an animal. The Baining say, “We are human because we work.” The tasks that make them human, in their view, are those of turning natural products (plants, animals, and babies) into human products (crops, livestock, and civilized human beings).

They do not allow infants to crawl and explore on their own. When one tries to do so an adult picks it up and restrains it.

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Don’t Work So Much – It’s Better For Everyone

Anders Hayden writes at The Solutions Journal:

Since the Industrial Revolution, two main motivations have driven the movement for work-time reduction. Free time away from the job improves individual well-being, while reducing work hours can cut unemployment by better distributing the available work. These historical motivations for work-time reduction have been joined by a new rationale: the need to reduce the impact of human societies on the environment.

The urgency of reducing humanity’s impacts on the earth is well documented. Estimates of our ecological footprint suggest that we need 1.5 planets to sustain current consumption practices, while studies of humanity’s “safe operating space” have concluded that we have already crossed some critical planetary boundaries, including safe levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Two dominant responses to this threat have emerged. One has been to carry on with business as usual, pursuing endless economic expansion while downplaying or denying the severity of environmental problems.

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What Research Says About Working Long Hours

90 HRS/WK AND LOVING IT!Via DevOpsAngle:

Facebook COO Sharyl Sandberg has kicked up a mini-controversy by admitting to Makers.com that she leaves the office at 5:30PM every day, and has done so for years. In the Valley, where work is a religion, leaving early is heresy.

Earlier this week “Jon” published The 501 Developer Manifesto, a call for developers to spend less time working.These calls for less time at the office are counter balanced by a recent talk by Google executive Marissa Mayer at an 92|Y event. Mayer dismissed the phenomena of “burn out” as resentment and boasted of working 130 hours a week at times.

Research suggests that Sandberg is probably the more productive executive, and those 501ers may be on to something. In a lengthy essay titled “Bring back the 40-hour work week,” Alternet editor Sara Robinson looks at the history of long working hours and reminds us why the 40 hour limit was imposed in the first place: working more than 40 hours a week has been shown to be counterproductive.

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