Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Jobs waste life

Everyone loves the Job: a one-size-fits-all container for people that keeps them busy and seems to be form the basis of an economy. But maye jobs are a giant waste of time because people engage in pro forma activities, as argued by this piece in The Economist:

Rob Cross and Peter Gray of the University of Virginia’s business school estimate that knowledge workers spend 70-85% of their time attending meetings (virtual or face-to-face), dealing with e-mail, talking on the phone or otherwise dealing with an avalanche of requests for input or advice. Many employees are spending so much time interacting that they have to do much of their work when they get home at night. Tom Cochran, a former chief technology officer of Atlantic Media, calculated that the midsized firm was spending more than $1m a year on processing e-mails, with each one costing on average around 95 cents in labour costs. “A free and frictionless method of communication,” he notes, has “soft costs equivalent to procuring a small company Learjet.”

As the saying goes, "What does it actually do?" and with the massive amounts of internal communication, we have no answer. It just keeps going. It serves no purpose. Like most things at a job, it divides your consciousness and leaves you unable to concentrate on anything difficult:

Mark Bolino of the University of Oklahoma points to a hidden cost of collaboration. Some employees are such enthusiastic collaborators that they are asked to weigh in on every issue. But it does not take long for top collaborators to become bottlenecks: nothing happens until they have had their say—and they have their say on lots of subjects that are outside their competence.

The biggest problem with collaboration is that it makes what Mr Newport calls “deep work” difficult, if not impossible. Deep work is the killer app of the knowledge economy: it is only by concentrating intensely that you can master a difficult discipline or solve a demanding problem. Many of the most productive knowledge workers go out of their way to avoid meetings and unplug electronic distractions. Peter Drucker, a management thinker, argued that you can do real work or go to meetings but you cannot do both.

And yet, we should consider the structure of jobs. Are they made to achieve anything? No: like school, they are babysitting and occupation to keep you from being active in other areas. Humanity has realized that 99% of its members are batshit insane, but instead of putting the other 1% in charge, we slam everyone into perpetual kindergarten to waste time.

It is no wonder that retired people are so bitter. They have wasted their lives on merry-go-round activities of no purpose. Worse, now they cannot think at all, since they have adapted to the environment of the office. And so they go home, waiting for the phone to ring because they are accustomed to constant stimulation at a job. Their brains cannot independently form thoughts so they shrug, give up, and commence shopping as they wait to die.

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