Unchecked, the days can feel like a series of tasks. Technology makes it easier to fall into this trap.

Are Companies Asking You to Do More Work?

Technology and the Hazards of Too Many Options in a Self-Directed Economy

Our modern lifestyle contains almost unlimited conveniences. Unnoticed, however, is how much of our time this now consumes. Craig Lambert’s recently released “Shadow Work: the unpaid, unseen jobs that fill your day” describes what is happening around us.

Once you are aware, “work” emerges from the shadows

For instance, society has long since exchanged less time in the kitchen for longer daily commutes, a shift that propelled the growth in fast food restaurants. Social media’s ease with keeping up with our friends is another; shorter, infrequent phone calls replaced by an hour (or more) of sifting through updates. These accommodations abound, and as the author warns, somewhat ironically, if left unchecked can actually result in less free time.

Convenience has economic implications as well. The author points to the nature of free enterprise seeking to improve efficiency and service, remove costs, or both. Unfortunately for many, one of the less recognized ways to cut costs is to outsource jobs, which the author calls “shadow work.” An example is the check-in kiosk at hotels that “delete jobs at the point of sale.” A portion of these reduced costs are passed on to the customer, of course, while at the same time this self-service technology removes an unskilled position from the labor pool.

The author sees shadow work entering into healthcare. Fortunately, “shadow-working patients are nothing if not motivated. No one minds the hours of research when life and health are at stake.” With the health system in flux and patient data increasingly available to consumers, more patients will assume “responsibilities once restricted to physicians.” The coming wave of health diagnostic apps and devices are sure to accelerate.

This is not without risks, of course, for “the average citizen is not especially qualified to extract genuine knowledge from the barrage of web noise.” Companies will ask us to fill out more surveys and dig deeper into our preferences. This information, Lambert concludes, will result in “outsourcing” more of what was once considered their responsibility onto us. Anyone who has signed up for email delivery of purchase receipts from HomeDepot, BestBuy or virtually any other retailer realizes their mistake within a few days, barraged with daily advertisements in exchange for seemingly point of sale convenience.

Technology can enable more of this, if you work at it.

Turning this off will not be easy. In a chapter titled, “The Twilight of Leisure” the author points to the “vanishing of leisure” as a paradox to 21st Century conveniences. More user names, passwords, and customer-responsible activities will continue to takes its toll. Technology gives and it takes, and if you aren’t conscious of what is happening, the next “advancement” may leave you with less.

Thanks for reading. Comments and suggestions for other topics welcome.

Below are reviews of popular titles in the behavior space:

· Richard Thaler’s “Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economicshere.

· Charles Duhigg’s best seller, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Businesshere.

· Dr. Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler’s “Connected: How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Think, Feel and Dohere.

· Ian Leslie’s “Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on Ithere.

Below are reviews of popular titles in the technology space:

· Kurt Beyer’s, “Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Agehere.

· Leslie Berlin’s “The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valleyhere.

I’ve also written about health, nutrition, money, behavior and other (mostly) related topics. On LinkedIn and Medium.

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