The notion of work and productivity goes back to times when we were just beginning to understand what it meant to be alive. Work was always as vital to survival as food and water. In physics, “work” is when a force applied to an object moves the object in the same direction as the force. Moving something from point A to point B requires work, hence why we rely on work to move ahead in life. However, does that notion still apply to today’s highly digitalized culture?
I have this conversation a lot. As someone who works remotely, travels extensively, but that also has experienced the 9-5 life, I have formed my own set of opinions around the theme of what I call “corporate slavery”.
Does being in an office all day make you more productive? Do set hours measure how much work was actually done? Are you a better employee because you are being overseen and managed? The answer is no.
I have always wondered what would happen if we stopped telling people what to do or where to be. On the one hand, there would be absolute mayhem, and on the other bursts of beautiful creativity.
So how do we move forward with creating an open space for creative exploration and productivity while assuring that the business’ goals are met?
I think it’s time to reinvent work.
During the industrial revolution businesses were in dire need of workers and people were in dire need of work. That demand allowed employers to set wages as low as they wanted and create conditions conducive to productivity, not well being. We all know the terrible working conditions in place during that time. People worked fourteen to sixteen hours a day for six days a week. Since then, the work ethic has remained a central theme in the american experience, and our productivity and worth as an employee still relies on that very antiquated concept.
I stopped wanting to be part of the grind, to me, having to sit in front of a computer all day in an office with artificial lighting was simply a violation of our rights to well being and sanity. Back during industrial revolution times, labor unions were formed to protect the rights of workers submitted to excruciating labor practices. Today, we are more protected than ever but employers are still somewhat afraid to explore each individual’s points of strength and difference. As a writer who was expected to write during normal business hours from an office in Manhattan, I struggled. I do my best work at night, or very very early in the morning. But that’s my problem. No one cares where you get your best work done or where you have your most creative thoughts. Our current system is rigid and inflexible.
If we reinvented the work ethic, could we become a more happy, productive, creative society?
I believe we are headed that way. Everyday more people explore productivity without the backbone of a big corporation. There are structures out there that allow for you to explore this lifestyle, that support independent thinking, remote work, nomadic living and they are only becoming more prominent. If we take ourselves out of the box, we may be able to abolish the box altogether one day.