The week@work – The future of work: exploring the influence of finance on inequality, work quality and experiments to allude all those ‘ceilings’@work

We are living in interesting times @work. Some of our traditional work models no longer fit with our values. As society and culture push back on antiquated work structures, new models emerge. The articles published this week@work consider the future of work by examining the external influences on the workplace and experiments at new models. And, one author suggests the Bureau of Labor Statistics include quality of life metrics in their employment reports.

The first two articles appear as part of the excellent Pacific Standard series on ‘The Future of Work and Workers’.

In the first, ‘The Future of Work: The (Excessive) Power of Finance’, Roosevelt Institute Fellow, Mike Konczal, writes about the broader implications of financial power on inequality @work.

“Academics often discuss the “financialization” of the economy, a mind-numbing term that simply means the increased size and power of finance, especially over corporations, the rules of the economy, and the way we view society. It’s this broader problem that should cause us to worry about the future of work and labor. Only by overcoming this challenge will the economy achieve the innovation and broad-based prosperity it is capable of creating.

When people discuss inequality, they tend to focus on technology, or globalization, or demographics. But recent research has emphasized that the rules of the economy, the laws, regulations, taxes, and practices that structure and influence the markets themselves, are a major generator of inequality. Those rules have consistently been re-written to benefit wealth and finance over everyone else, creating another major challenge for workers.”

In the second article,‘The Future of Work: Exploring the Quality of Work’ University of Minnesota’s Ann Markusen asks us to reconnect with the experience and meaning of work and develop policies and practices aligned with work life quality.

“We have lost track of the whole job, the meaning and experience of work in people’s lives, and how policy and employer practices have demeaned them. And we fail to probe deeply enough into why this is happening, especially shifts in societal norms and the behavior of employers. We should broaden the conversation about work beyond important metrics like labor force participation, unemployment rates, weekly wages, hours worked, and median income to investigate more deeply the quality of work life and its significance for us collectively.”

We could broaden recurrent Bureau of Labor Statistics and state/local employment surveys to cover workplace comfort, safety, flexible leave, quality of manager/peer/customer interactions, pride in one’s work. We could then track changes over time in the quality of work, and by industry, occupation, age, race, and location..More attention to work quality, from researchers, schools, the press, and politicians, will contribute significantly to the future of work in this country.”

One company exploring a new model, ‘Holacracy’ is Zappos. National editor of The Intercept, Roger D. Hodge spent some time with employees and shared his experience in ‘First Let’s Get Rid of All the Bosses’ for The New Republic.

“The contemporary movement of corporate reform, the drive to make the workplace more humane and meaningful, to imbue companies with joy and a higher purpose, will not stand or fall with Zappos. But if it does fail, if Amazon clamps down and assimilates the happy-wacky Zapponian culture and absorbs all those smiles and hugs and high-fives into its vale of tears, the rest of the reform movement will suffer. The stakes are pretty high, at least for people who would prefer not to spend their days in a live-action Dilbert comic strip. Unfortunately, right now it seems that most of the self-organizing and self-actualization at Zappos is being carried out by Hsieh. Everybody else is just following along.”

For half the population, the existing models haven’t worked and folks (women) who aspire to senior positions are trivialized with media labels. Are we surprised when women ‘drop out’? Or amazed at the success of incubator projects developed outside the bounds of the traditional?

Jessica Roy created a list of 28 (if I counted correctly) ceilings in ‘All the Ceilings Women Keep Hitting Their Heads On’.

“If a woman faces sexism in a male-dominated industry but the media doesn’t coin a cutesy nickname for her very real struggle, does it even make a sound? Here, a comprehensive list of all the ceilings women can’t stop hittin’ their heads on…

The glass ceiling: Women in the corporate world.

The stained-glass ceiling: Female Catholic priests.

The grass ceiling: Women in soccer.

Wait, now there’s a broken window we can injure ourselves on? UGH.”

Maggie Lord, the founder and editor of ‘Rustic Wedding Chic’, offered suggestions for those building a business between full time work commitments in an article for Entrepreneur, ‘The Naptime Entrepreneur: Pursuing Your Business in ‘Off Hours”.

“I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, so I knew that with hard work and determination, it was possible to build my own business. That being said, building a business and a family at the same time wasn’t always easy. It’s taken me time to realize that both my son and my business need my attention — but not at the same time. By resolving to be present in either of these priorities when I’m focusing on them, building a brand and a family has been possible.”

Our laws, practices and policies significantly impact our lives @work. But they don’t contain our commitment to change, nor limit the many creative detours we find to navigate around the brick walls.

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