What was once a simple wisdom about the psychological value of work has now been converted into a scientific fact. In 2006, medical researchers published the government-commissioned review, Is Work Good for Your Health and Well-being –
a report that would later be cited by politicians, mental health charities and psychiatric organisations as solid evidence that employment is not only good for health, but can even promote recovery among sick and disabled people. Duncan Selbie, the CEO of Public Health England, would suggest that our health, wellbeing and happiness are “inextricably linked to work” (defined as a paid job). In fact, the report itself took a broad definition of “work”, which included activities like volunteering, education, and caring for family
For this reason, we should resist leaving questions about work and health to the medical experts, and reclaim them as a topic for democratic debate. We should feel more disturbed by appeals to the psychological necessity of employment – an activity that is often exploitative, takes up our time and energy, and can be harmful to health in the long run. Recent statistics
paint a bleak picture: 1.4 million workers in the UK now suffer from work-related ill health, and 13,000 workers died last year, as a result of exposure to dust or chemicals at work. For the first time, over 50 per cent of the work days lost in the UK have been linked to work-related stress, anxiety or depression, a fact which has prompted the general secretary of the Trade Union Congress, Frances O’Grady, to officially name the problem an epidemic. Rather than mindlessly re-stating the psychological importance of having a job, politicians should remain open to the idea that there might be other ways to define health and meet the need for security and dignity.
Perhaps a shorter national working week could shed light on the benefits of less work. Perhaps a new kind of welfare system, coupled with new public facilities, could aim at resourcing people to do something worthwhile outside of employment. Perhaps a new kind of ethics could see that people have an inherent dignity, irrespective of their economic contribution, and recognise that there are many ways to contribute to society outside the remit of a paid job. In this world of possible alternatives – many now being investigated – would we perhaps find that jobs are not quite so integral to health after all? Until politicians are willing to let go of the employment dogma, we will never know.
A piece that poses many important questions, for society and policy makers.
is the deputy editor of Quartz At Work
and author of Gigged
, a deep dive into the gig economy. I had a chance to interview her last week about the panel she’s moderating this week at Work Awesome
in New York.
Stowe Boyd: I read a number of reviews of your book, ‘Gigged’, on the gig economy, and it seems that your street-level approach – building the book’s narrative around the lives of people working in that world – has drawn a great deal of praise. What insights have you had since publishing the book? Have you revised any of the findings you offered the reader?
Sarah Kessler: There are endless white papers and opinions about the gig economy. In Gigged, I wanted to show a picture of what the gig economy actually looked like in the context of people’s lives, and how that’s different for different people. I think that the narrative of one type of “gig worker” — say the software engineer who discovers a new independence and freedom through freelance work — often gets co-opted by companies offering work that is nothing like that, like low-paid service work. They’re not the same the thing. So part of what I wanted to do was show that there are different experiences that people use the same word to describe. I also wanted to show how this is the latest version of a long-time trend of risk shifting to workers, and that there’s nothing ‘new’ about that part. This extends way beyond Uber. Uber is just the thing people are talking about. I still believe all of that.
The $25 Nap Is Worth It
| Stephen Marche
tells us it’s worth the twenty-five bucks to take a nap at Caspers
, the mattress company.
I’ve been a freelancer for more than 10 years now, working from home; the quality and quantity of work I can do emerges directly from my ability to concentrate. I do not understand how people have creative careers without napping. Every day at about 1 p.m., everyone faces the same choice: sleep until 2 p.m. and then work until 5, or daydream and drift around social media and take pointless meetings until 7 p.m.
The friends I have who still work in offices inform me that their bosses insist they take the second option, that napping is equated with laziness. I genuinely find it bizarre. One piece of nap research demonstrated that if you nap properly, it’s like waking up from a full night’s sleep. You can double your day’s worth of concentration.
Under hypercapitalism, the most beautiful things are the surest signs of impending crisis. The nap seems like a luxury, or even a sign of weakness, a regression into infantlike torpor. Nothing could be further from the truth. In a gig economy, the ability to take a nap is a huge advantage. The availability of a proper nap for a reasonable fee is yet another example of how inequality works. People with enough money will be able to afford the naps that allow them to have enough intellectual energy to make the money to afford the naps.
I nap nearly everyday. Roughly from 12:30pm to 1:30pm. Then I work until 6pm (with a walk in there somewhere). Note that I typically start work before 6am (often before 5am), so a nap is essential to my workflow and sanity.
The idea that napping is a sign of laziness is stupid, another example of anti-scientific thinking in management. Read the science instead of just spouting platitudes, management drones! The same small-minded fanaticism associated with the crappy logic surrounding will power, which is increasingly viewed by those researching it as an obsolete Victorian concept, like Freudian psychology and mesmerism.
More fundamentally, the common, monolithic definition of willpower distracts us from finer-grained dimensions of self-control and runs the danger of magnifying harmful myths—like the idea that willpower is finite and exhaustible. To borrow a phrase from the philosopher Ned Block, willpower is a mongrel concept, one that connotes a wide and often inconsistent range of cognitive functions. The closer we look, the more it appears to unravel. It’s time to get rid of it altogether.
Forget the 'marshmallow experiment’ by Baumeister – it’s been shown to be baloney. Forget 'ego depletion’, which is a great example of 'publication bias’ – everyone knows its’s true because it’s been cited so many times.
Fisher goes on:
Willpower may simply be a pre-scientific idea—one that was born from social attitudes and philosophical speculation rather than research, and enshrined before rigorous experimental evaluation of it became possible. The term has persisted into modern psychology because it has a strong intuitive hold on our imagination: Seeing willpower as a muscle-like force does seem to match up with some limited examples, such as resisting cravings, and the analogy is reinforced by social expectations stretching back to Victorian moralizing. But these ideas also have a pernicious effect, distracting us from more accurate ways of understanding human psychology and even detracting from our efforts toward meaningful self-control. The best way forward may be to let go of “willpower” altogether.
In the end, believing in willpower is often simply not necessary.
So take the nap, and tell your boss to pound sand.
We found a literature review done by David Constanza and colleagues. In their meta-analysis, ‘Generational differences in work-related attitudes’
, they reviewed decades of studies across four generations: The Traditionals, The Baby Boomers, The Generation Xers, and the Millennials.
Just as we couldn’t find much research on ‘generations at work’, Constanza and co-workers discovered there are very few academic studies on the subject.
After reviewing decades of research, they found only 20 studies that provided enough evidence to be used in their meta-analysis. This small number of studies is remarkable—given the wide coverage and broad claims made in mainstream media and popular management literature.
With so little research on the topic, the empirical support for claims in the popular press on generational differences (at work) is far from convincing.
There was little or no support for differences between groups based on generational membership. In other words, the findings suggest meaningful differences among generations do not exist!
A must read.
“It’s not always enough to lean in, because that shit doesn’t work all the time,” Obama told a ticketed crowd at the Barclays Center in New York yesterday (Dec. 1).