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Why Work Needs to Change

Imagine trying to explain the current office based work system to someone who has never heard of it before.

“We get paid for the time spent working, as opposed to output. Talking about pay is generally discouraged for unclear reasons, so no one really knows how much anyone else earns. We also adhere to fixed working schedules every week, even though most work isn’t time sensitive.

Most companies only allow employees to work from a particular location, even if that job can be done from anywhere. We are also expected to take an active interest in the success of the company you work for, even if we don’t own any shares in it.”

Doesn’t sound very well thought out.

In fact, in almost every way it makes no sense at all and it’s a wonder that it ever became as widespread as it has.

If we go back to first principles for a moment, then work is quite simply the act of providing value in exchange for money. Yet we have somehow ended up with a system where there is no clear motivation for employees to perform well.

If you are being paid for your time rather than your work itself, of course you are not going to be motivated to actually work hard. It actually seems amazing that companies accomplish anything with such a system!

There are some exceptions to this rule of course, but it remains true for unfortunately too many companies.

Being motivated to do work is I think the biggest issue facing most people in the world of work today. Incentives drive almost everything and yet the lack of them in the workplace is I think, the reason for why so many are unhappy.

What should work be like?

There are several things that I think would make for a much happier workforce in the future and in a way, I think we are already moving towards that.

Gig based work

That is, employees doing small jobs for many companies rather than doing all their work for a single one. I think this would be important as a way of diversifying income— employers have power when they are an employee’s sole source of money.

People tend to worry about losing their jobs because it is their sole income stream. Having multiple sources of money would make that much less of an issue.

Entrepreneurship

Starting a business online is quite easy now. If you own the business then there will be no motivation issues — all the work you do is for yourself. You also have the freedom of being able to set your own schedule and have full control over your work.

As an entrepreneur, you will have a genuine enthusiasm for your work and your business because it is your own.

Output-based work

If earnings are based on someone's output rather than merely their time, I think we will see much more motivated employees. The amount of time that it takes someone to finish something should be irrelevant — most work is not time sensitive. There may be deadlines, yes, but as long as an employee meets the deadlines does it matter when or where they do the work? Some jobs, of course, can only operate according to a fixed schedule — such as being a waiter or waitress.

There’s another reason why focusing on output is important — employee’s are often judged for things that are actually irrelevant to their work even though their ability to do the job should surely be the only thing that matters. There’s no reason for an employee to actually care about a company if they are not shareholders and yet they are often expected to have an interest in what they are doing. An environment where there is this sort of expectation only leads to people not behaving in a genuine way.

Challenges

One of the most common defenses of the current work culture is that it allows people to socialize and get out of the house. This is true, but I also believe it’s irrelevant.

Companies are never created for the purpose of allowing employees to socialize. Nor are they for giving people a sense of purpose. Work is about providing value to the company — the other supposed benefits are entirely incidental to that.

I think work in itself is fantastic and it’s great when people are motivated to accomplish things. Unfortunately, the current system doesn't seem to encourage such behavior — one has to instead appear a productive employee while having no reason to perform. Yes, some people enjoy their jobs and that alone can motivate them, but that is not the case for most workers.

It’s easier than ever now for someone to become an entrepreneur or freelance worker but there remain real challenges to changing work culture. So much of society revolves around the notion of working Monday to Friday and then having the weekend off.

Could you imagine the changes that would take place in society if there was no fixed working week and people worked whenever they feel like it?

Change may be difficult at first but I think everyone would be a lot happier in the end.