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The changing face of work

Over the years the various facets of human activity that contributed to make sense of the person's place and role in society have been progressively eroded away. This process is still going on today. Take work, for example. Using the word "work" implies an inherent separation between that activity and all other activities.

Although some people received financial rewards for their work, toil in the Middle Ages was not systematically equated with a wage. With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, work progressively become a means to earn a living. Work was done at specific times in specific places separate from other human activities. This conception of work spread from industry to other sectors. With the advent of Taylorism, worker satisfaction was rationalised out of work and the process of reducing work to an activity purely designed to earn money took another step forward. In the current so-called "economic crisis" a new shift has occurred in which not everybody is able to do work anyway. Work has become literally senseless for so many people that they'd probably be better off not doing it, if it weren't for the need to "earn a living" and the persistent image that you are good-for-nothing if you don't work (for a living).

It is interesting to note how some companies and organisations have tried to overcome general disinterest on the part of employees as epitomised by a lack of concern for quality. The ISO 9000 quality control standards are a bureaucratic solution that substitute a framework of controls for failing motivation and absent personal responsibility.

The advent of the Information Society, with its "tele-activities" such as telework or tele-learning, seemingly reintegrates these disconnected activities into the tissue of home and family life. Yet is this really so? Initially the time dedicated to an activity was dictated by clearly defined needs and customs. Nowadays, time spent on work is fixed by negotiation between workers and employers concerning the length of the working day. Without such an artificial limit, work may well flow out and into everything else. With the increasing flexibility demanded by employers, how will the future "independent" teleworker by able to protect himself or herself and his or her family from being overrun by work. At the same time, it is likely that many future teleworkers will trade in a part of their independence for a degree of security by establishing on-going privileged relationships with a limited number of specific "mandate givers".

The other texts of The re-connected individual are:

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ISSN: 1664-834X Copyright © , Alan McCluskey, info@connected.org
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Created: July 3rd, 1996 - Last up-dated: July 3rd, 1996