Framework for the future of work – 2

By Alexander Klier By Jeffrey Backus Mar 3, 2015
Framework for the future of work – 2

Translation of the Original Article by Alexander Klier

The counterpart to the image in the post 1 has a different location, but the same subject: Life-World and work. In the study by Adolph Menzel you can see the Life-World in the bottom left-and right-hand corner (Workers are washing themselves and are eating together – with the family).
Picture: Adolph von Menzel – Das Eisenwalzwerk under a public domain license.

The first part of this Blog Post dealt with the question what needs regulation for the future of work to have reliable and transparent framework. The background is for this blog to mark out my frame so that we can present an opinion at the Social Business Arena at the CeBIT 2015. This second part of the Blog Post deals with the question how things are regulated. This is by far the most important and the hardest question. My answer are just representing the first attempt, which needs to be discussed critically.

Return to the Life-World

So, how do we regulate? This is the first attempt of a first answer to the difficult third question. For this a recourse to the framework that is dissolving and tearing down borders: A central “achievement” of Taylorism was to lock out any reference to the lifeworld – supposedly unproductive - of the employees from the production process. That was solved so successfully that even breaks (or allowance against the working time) - the most natural thing in the world - were repeatedly hard-fought over territories in legal goals and collective agreements. If you want to regulate the dissolution positively, both sides – the work world and the life world – have to come into their own, or be combined. If work is done during leisure times, because it makes sense, then it is just as important to be able to take care of private things during working hours. I called this “the return of lifework to the workplace” elsewhere. To me this approach suggests more than just in parts that the future of the work-world “will resemble the agricultural society of the past more than the industrial and office society of today” (Negelmann). Such a positive regulation will need to be designed to go beyond the lifespan with its various requirements and phases.

Framework, Rules and Standards

Besides the content of the question how things are to be regulated, it is mainly about the facts, which procedures and rules can apply for a new, stable, transparent and trustworthy framework to emerge. For that, you can nicely refer back to the example of Social Collaboration. The newer anthropology and ethology can clearly show that common life and working in associations, i.e. in a group is an evolutionary advantage and thus part of the conditio humana. Further, it can show that Norms and Rules emerge directly from this, to ensure that the collaboration is comprehensible (particularly compare Tomasello here). This circumstance can be put to use in the corporate Social Collaboration. However – and this is the additional challenge – you have to clear up and codify this circumstance transparently and traceable on a corporate level or companywide. In plain language, this means that there have to be both legal and tariff regulations, as well as corporate agreements that define the framework in which the individual groups and teams on their own and fully responsible for regulating the dealing in and with the work. However, as so many things the frameworks are only really effective if they are accepted by the concerned employees within their groups.

The whole nine yards

Unfortunately, the consistent path towards a true social collaboration is rarely followed. Even though it would be the logical consequence. What would this mean for setting the frame? For one, that groups and teams – in regards to their work tasks -have discretionary power over the supply of resources, that they can decide how much time or people are necessary for a proper job execution. That is the first relieving part. Secondly, there have to be robust conflict-resolution mechanisms and transparency, because here too, or precisely because still many contradictions and different requirements will arise there. That is the second relieving part, and certainly one of the central driving forces for the debate about approximate democratic processes with the design of the concrete work. But, it should not be forgotten that these basic regulations will have to be first initiated and enabled practically one level up. This in turn means that the exact configuration is not the responsibility of the (abstract) establishments, but must be transferred to the group and team level. Challenging times! But, if a Social Collaboration is desired, then don’t stop half way.