Getting back on track.

Investigating work for everyone, not just myself.

Christmas and New Year is great, but it stops everything. If you’re in a job, an employee, it’s great to get a rest in the comfort of knowing you’ll be paid. For freelancers, business owners, jobseekers, the self-employed and those doing odd projects around the concept of work, as great as it is to take stock at the end of the year, it’s tinged with horror.

In the great slowdown through December, as everyone disappears to office parties and daytime hangovers, conversations are put on hold. This gives way to two weeks where no one is thinking about work, a time where those without salaries try to relax before starting to fidget from Boxing Day onwards. Once January comes, there’s a week of the gears starting to grind again before anything meaningful happens.

When you’re waiting on work, or a response to an application, this break can be soul-destroying and more than a little panicky! I’ve spoken to a number of people recently who have felt the pinch (I include myself in their number).

What the enforced break did do for me was make me take stock and think about what The Work Project is all about. It’s been really positive.

During the latter weeks of 2014 I’d become consumed by a fear of money, or more specifically, a lack of it. It hindered my judgement badly, making me pursue opportunities that actually weren’t right for me, causing me trouble and also causing me to stop looking at the wider insights this project should be providing about work and place and people.

But 2015’s here and two weeks in, the world is coming back alive. There are millions of amazing people to have millions of amazing conversations with and there’s nothing to stop any of us having them. It’s a great freedom that many of us are too scared to take and something my friend Garry Junkuhn is talking about at Bournemouth TEDx in February.

The great thing about conversation is that it can be positive or negative, but as hard as the negative conversations are, there’s always a positive to be had. So, after the jumble of the last month or so, I’m getting my head above the parapet.

Going for #noemail has helped me focus and cut down on the distractions, but I’ve had to completely reassess what I do with my hours as I strive to shape a living in a unique way. As always, there’s lots of potential out there, but it’s a case of turning that into something tangible (and paying!).

This is meant to be an exploration of work though and, as you can see from the meanderings above, it’s become more of a regular assessment of my mental health. That’s changing. As of now, as much as The Work Project is about me, it’s about insight — from everyone. I’m going to start working harder on gaining that and I should be ready to share in the coming few weeks — I have a few projects lined up.

Of course, if you’re a benefactor, or corporation who would like to sponsor my research, it will become a lot less stressful and I’d happily receive your call. But maybe the hardship is the point. Surely this is why people are so disinclined to remove themselves from the comfort of a steady job - even when they hate it.

So it’s back to the drawing board for The Work Project with far more focus. My priorities are examining the ideas around:

  • How we understand work
  • How we assign value
  • How organisations can deal with alternative ways of working and paying

It’s proving hard to open conversations on these lines with the larger, more complex organisations, who are the ones where flexibility and alternative approaches are viewed with suspicion (or ignored completely). But, these are the places where I need to have the conversations and it’s a case of organisation, focus and doing the right things.

It’s quite a liberating feeling.


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