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Thoughts About The Future of Work From A Chronically Unemploymed Person

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Over time I’ve been thinking on how people work, particularly working from home and working hours.

Work From Home

Because of COVID-19, white-collar workers got to partake in one of the largest work-from-home trials ever. It’s not a perfect experiment given that this is work-from-home during a pandemic which brings it’s own issues. Still, it looks like some are really happy with this arrangement. This is anecdata, but both my mother and sister enjoy working from home and found it to be more productive (though the work is still too much).

For one, there’s no commute. If I took my mothers example in which she had a 50 minuite commute both ways, she saved 8 days by not commuting. That’s less stress, lower risk from accidents, less fuel use which in turn can lower carbon emissions. The thing I’m worried about from this is that it might make mass transit less viable and the people who serve commuters.

Another benefit is the flexibility you get from working at home. You have greater choice over how you work. You don’t have to be dropped into a vast open office with your book looking over you. You can dress how ever you want and break whenever you want as long as you get your work done. It might also accomodate various situations like being a caretaker and being disabled, though I’m sure you need a good separation to keep productive.

There are things you miss with work-from-home like the serendipitous conversations, face to face contact, onboarding new workers (especially entry level ones) and building a work culture. I’m sure some companies will continue to offer the benefit and figure out how to adapt to a remote-first culture. The bigger issue is that of pay since you have a larger pool of people to work with. You’ll probably won’t go beyond a timezone, but there’s a lot of variation in one. I’m from Zimbabwe which is in the same timezone as Europe. That’ll effect wages somewhat.

Still, it looks like work-from-home will be something that will seriously be considered. Most will take a flex arrangement split between work and home. For some reason, whether it’s for control or the loss in productivity, some people hate it like the CEO of a magazine who published a thinly-veiled threat as an op-ed. There’s also real estate tycoons who really want you to go back to the office.

Shorter Working Hours

One thing that has bothered me is that the quest to reduce work hours has stalled for over 100 years. The early labour movements has so much zeal in wanting to reduce work that hasn’t gone beyond 40 hours. It’s such a bad trade to spend the most productive hours of the most productive period of your life working. Honestly, 40 hours a week is far too much. It should be 20 max. People worry about automation taking our jobs, but I think that would be great if we do it right! With our basic needs met, work will be something we do if we want fancy stuff or for the sake of it, like people sponsored as royal patrons.

The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play. That’s why we have to destroy the present politico-economic system.

— Arthur C. Clarke

Shit, I got political for a second. Anyways, there have been a few trials into this and the conclusion is something like “employees are really happy, but it isn’t as profitable”. One thing I’m looking at is Spain’s four-day working week trial. Despite the stereotype of lazy spaniards, they actually have some of the highest working hours in Europe.

Conclusion

COVID has been terrible but there’s the potential to reshape how we work. More people opting to work from home would be wonderful, so would working less hours so we can play. I’ve focused on white-colar workers but blue collar workers can iprove from this mess too. Restaurants in the US have struggled to find workers so much so they want the government to force people to work. It’s probably due to high risk and the strain the pandemic causes on families, but a part of it is that they jobs pay like shit and are run by people who don’t give a shit about workplace safety.

Honestly if you can’t run a business without paying starvation wages, I’m okay if you collapse. The world would be better without your shit business. I remember a couple of years ago seeing an entire Sonic franchise quit. And given how Americans don’t have much union membership and how people say you should quit if you want something better, it looks like they’re doing just that.