Work is different, but we still do it like it’s 1900

The eight-hour schedule, five days a week, began as a workload adjustment movement, called in the nineteenth century the short schedule. Previously, at a large-scale, work was done in factories six days a week, and 16 hours a day, and hiring children was a common thing.

Robert Owen first formulated the slogan: “eight hours of work, eight hours of recreation and eight hours of rest” in 1817. Thirty years later, women and children were allowed to work only 10 hours a day in England and 12 hours a day in France. The International Workers’ Association decided at Geneva in 1866 that the maximum legal limit for a working day would be eight hours. The first country to adopt the new style of work was Finland at the beginning of the 20th century.

100 years later, although the nature of work has radically changed – from agriculture to the industrial age and now to intellectual work, companies continue to use the same work and pay system.

In the United States, Henry Ford was the one who put into practice the new system right on International Labor Day in 1926. Not only did he shorten his working day to eight hours and the workweek to five days, he also doubled the pay of his employees at five dollars a day. The hypothesis he formulated was that once the employees work less, they will be more productive, and if they are better paid, they will afford to buy the cars they produce in the factories. In addition, having more free time and more money they will consume more in general, which can only be beneficial to the local economy. His theory was confirmed, but not very much appreciated by the competition, who had to do the same thing, otherwise he lost his best workers.

Today the labor landscape has changed and not too. In essence, it is totally different, but it stubbornly succeeds in keeping its shape. When we leave schools, we are not automatically assigned to factories according to our results anymore, but the hard part just begins. A diploma, a license, an accreditation itself does not mean anything anymore. The last day of school is also the first official day of an adult’s life in the 21st century.

Searches, convictions, negotiations for getting the first good job we have prepared for during our study years not only they begin now, but they can be slow, difficult and sometimes seem to have no light at the end of the tunnel. However, younger generations seem optimistic and are described as idealistic or pretentious without reason.

Young people more than ever want to feel that their work matters. And not just at the organizational level, because we all know that a machine can not function unless all the wheels are in place. We are talking here about an effect on the world or at least one that is felt in the community they are part of. More than ever, young people wonder if what they do is the right thing, in sppite of a stable job mentality that will ensure their tomorrow and long-term future.

The years of social maturity are no longer the same as a few decades ago, and this is noticed more often in urban areas. They leave home later, they marry and have children later, they buy a home also in the late years of their youth. Social pressure, though it still exists, is no longer as overwhelming. For this reason, many young people prefer to postpone the moment of formal maturity and this allows them to take greater risks.

They’re always looking for a purpose, the risks they take are not made by chance, even if at first sight they seem irresponsible. An example of this is Marina Shifrin, who made the international news when she resigned via YouTube. Telling the story two years later, Marina admitted that the decision was not at all spontaneous, but planned from the moment she got hired, considering the job a transition on her way to writing comedy. This is just an example, but many other young people resign because they realize that what they want and the organizational culture of the company they’re working for, represent two different worlds. The younger generation is giving up paid and secure jobs to find its purpose in life, a behavior that was even harder to grasp if we had this conversation in the last century.

At the opposite end, employers complain that young people at the beginning of their careers no longer want to do the hard work, they no longer want to learn and their salary claims exceed the amounts companies are willing to offer. Indeed, the generation that grew up with internet access at home wants more freedom and decision power when it comes to how it works. Individuals who form it considered themselves citizens of the world and believe they should be able to afford anything that someone of the same age and profession in economically developed countries affords. We expect our youngsters to represent us in the world, but the rent costs more than half the salary, living them with no budget for books, travel, culture or social life, but only for basic needs, like food and shelter.

Reality shows us that a day of work does not differ much from the rules established a century ago in factories. We have to be in the office at a certain time, to be present for a certain amount of time in the same space, every working day. Whether we are talking about engineers, designers, developers things are already made. We are unaware of the fact that some crafts, although without discipline can not be done, are not made in equal doses of work, at fixed intervals. Engineers, architects, designers, writers, developers need quiet to be able to absorb a problem and really try to solve it. But we ask this from anyone who wants a full-time job, because ”that’s what we do”, ”that’s when work is happening”. The legislation is the last one to catch up with technology, which seriously affects how we do business, regardless of the profession.

There are countless studies that show that more freedom does not mean less productivity, but rather the cause of increased accountability among employees and collaborators. The faster kids do their homework, the more time they have to play. The same goes for the adults who go to work. Employers are afraid that by offering freedom of movement and decision power, employees will slack if they are not supervised. Or that they will not produce as much for the same amount of pay if the work schedule is shorter and more customized. Although there are many analyzes that show us that in the office, even if you stay for eight hours, you are not 100% productive in that interval.

Trust is an important factor. We are heading towards a future where we will collaborate more often in the Hollywood model – where specialists in different fields gather together to complete a project and then separate. We will work more and more frequently with collaborators which we find in all corners of the world. Because the future is dynamic, the best people will deliver without the restrictions of last century’s mentality, which today does not mean squat. With technology, we can measure exactly what, who, when, and where does, and how long it takes for a task to be completed. This eliminates the non-confidence factor. Just by measuring the present we can analyze it, and then improve the future.

We are talking more and more about the only constant that will govern the present century, namely, change. If we do not learn to change with the world, we will be automatically set aside. Yuval Noah Harari writes about the future of work and brings into discussion the essential skills we need to master to succeed in the 21st century. The adaptability to change and the ability to give meaning to the extraordinary amount of knowledge available at a click away. The new generations, more than anything, will have to know how to adapt to change. There is more and more discussions around man’s abilities compared to robots – what people can do that robots can’t. Here we include creativity, empathy, solving the biggest problems humanity faces. Practically, those exact characteristics that make us human, because most of the tasks, especially those that can be easily automated, have already begun to be taken over by machines and robots.

In an extremely near future, human resources and managers need to understand all these truths about the world we live in and accept them. Otherwise, the best workers will leave for the competition, as they did when Ford offered employees revolutionary benefits at the time.

| cover source.

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Andra Magda

Writer with a degree in Psychology, living in the heart of Transylvania, I freelance for companies and publications.

I write about work, failure, personal experiments, and creative industries.

I don't use social media, but I do share updates via my monthly newsletter. It’s like a magazine, delivered to your inbox.

Andra Magda

Writer with a degree in Psychology, living in the heart of Transylvania, I freelance for companies and publications.

I write about work, failure, personal experiments, and creative industries.

I don't use social media, but I do share updates via my monthly newsletter. It’s like a magazine, delivered to your inbox.