70% of employees work more than their contracted hours. This is according to a new study from my client Tarkett, who I’ve been working with for Clerkenwell Design Week, an absolute festival of interior design. Why are we all working so hard? And is it productive?
Think about your role. Do you add most value based on your throughput of work? Or do you add more value with creativity, insight and inspiration? Either is a valid answer. The reality is probably somewhere between the two.
But look at what is happening to the sheer throughput side of our work. Even those who don’t believe that automation is going to take swathes of jobs, generally accept that we can progressively outsource the more mundane aspects of our work to machines. Technology can accelerate our output and allow us to focus on the things that really matter. The uniquely (for now) human capabilities that allow us to really add value.
So think: are your best creatively when you’re overworked? Listen to Leonard Mlodinow on ‘elastic thinking’ at a recent RSA talk and he’ll tell you a good state of mind is critical to these skills.
Factor in the potential shortage of jobs in the future — perhaps even more realistic if you believe David Graeber’s ‘Bullshit Jobs’ analysis and consider those might be the first to be automated away — and a small number of people doing excessive amounts of work looks even less sensible.
Tomorrow’s workforce is going to be made up of people valued for their human skills, not employed as cheap robots, as is often the case today (see Paul Mason’s point about car washes moving from automated to manual). Future-ready organisations should be starting now to focus on mapping desirable outcomes — sustainable success — much more closely to human skills of creativity and insight, than to sweat and toil.