Translation of the Original Article by Alexander Klier
The picture shows Andreas Weinbrecht, Sebastian Thielke, Helmut Weiss and me (from right to left) during the Christmas tree campaign of Beck et al. Services on 21 December 2015. Specifically: the felling of the trees in the Forstenrieder Park. The trees were then delivered to the tea room "komm".
Thoughts about work over Christmas
" Since 2002 we cooperate with the tearoom "komm" of Evangelical Relief and Works Agency, which provides assistance to homeless citizens. "
What the above quote from our website (here) very briefly describes, has actually given me new impetus. And in the aftermath brought me to have a few thoughts on the subject of work. Although these are only loosely coupled, I want to bring them to "digital" paper coherently here. But not without mentioning what the setting is: just before Christmas, we at BeaS assist the tearoom „komm“ in getting appropriate Christmas trees in the Forstenrieder Park. Under the guidance of a competent forester the dense tree population gets thinned out, which makes this a good campaign even from an ecological standpoint. Then we help in the following 2 days (in our case, on 22 and 23 December), that the trees are given to interested parties and citizens. Those in turn show their gratitude with a donation to the tearoom “komm”. This is the scenario of our volunteer campaign. Thus, the tearoom campaign benefits directly as a result.
The tearoom komm in turn offers a dwelling place to single homeless people or those in risk of homelessness throughout the day. The possibility exists for body and laundry care and cooking facilities. But above all, it is about maintaining social contacts in a protected space at the tea room komm. If you like, it is about the possibility of lived sociality, just as our support for the Christmas campaign. Sociality is what makes people whether privately or at work.
And, as I happily assume and emphasize from Sabine Pfeiffer: there is nothing more social than (collaborative) work. Should work, and thus sociality, be made impossible, then people get sick - and sometimes homeless. In other words, you can also organize work so that it represents the opposite of social or does not reach sociality.
The tearoom komm of the Protestant Relief Organization helps the homeless and those in risk of becoming homeless. We at BeaS volunteer at the annual Christmas tree campaign.
Picture: Alexander Klier under the terms of the Creative Commons (BY-SA)
The crazy world of work
"Physiological needs like hunger, thirst and warmth can be difficult to be met with limited finances or without a home“(Diakonie hier).
The first thought I had was that a central aspect for people becoming homeless is the lack of an income (work). Regardless what the reason for it might be: if one’s job is not to be a son or a daughter or otherwise has a patron, the small change needed to afford a living space quickly runs out. In densely populated areas like Munich much faster than for example in the countryside. Once you are in a situation like this, it is much more difficult to find "regular employment". “In almost all cases the income situation of homeless people is precarious” (Federal Agency for Civic Education, here). Furthermore, there are more and more “working poor” – people that are fully employed, but not earning enough to make a decent living, which includes the living space. To secure the livelihood represents as it were the first facet of the social work, rightly named paid "gainful employment".
A second keeps occupying me in regards to gainful employment: we are living in a crazy world when it comes to the organization of gainful employment. This aspect could be nicely shown in statistics and proof scientifically. I just briefly want to touch on that: on the one hand, we have the “high-qualifieds” and “high-performers” in the corporations. To those 70 or 80-hour workweeks are normal. Generally, with a decent pay for the work done, but at the cost of almost complete sacrifice of private time. In addition, there are the ever-increasing performance demands at the expense of the health of the employees. This shows up in the rapid increase of numbers of mental illnesses. Once you cannot handle these demands anymore suddenly you become the “low-performer”, and let go. Both are inhumane and hardly social. As well as the background behind the debate whether the future of work and the workplace, regardless of digital or analogue.
The second part of our support, the delivery of the Christmas trees, is labor. In this special case though, a very collaborative and social form of collaboration. Image: Alexander Klier under the terms of the Creative Commons (BY-SA).
The physical basis of labor
"Good working conditions are a guarantee that people can develop a variety of skills and abilities; that they receive respect and appreciation, and [...]build important social relationships" (DGB Good Work Index, p.3; here).
Whoever dwells in the digital world, the sphere of numbers and indicators, or even in the domain of writing easily forgets that mental and digital work – still in the sense of gainful employment – is still labor. Meant in a physical sense of performance expenditure and, often enough, the need to get it done. You experience the performance expenditure mentally when things do not go smoothly. Unfortunately, there are not just nice customers or pleasant communication. Also, to timely deliver one’s ideas can be quite exhausting. In this respect, not only the proportion of pure physical work is something deeply human and power consuming. What labor actually means immediately becomes clear to me in such moments as the cutting and felling of the trees and the following loading and unloading. This is a further aspect of my experiences with the Christmas tree campaign. Here again I can only emphasize that I am very happy that we shape our performance expenditures well and humane at BeaS with the help of our platforms. Without social relations coming up short.
„On the other hand, it is also wrong, to praise inaction more than action, because happiness (Eudaimonia) is activity (practice)" (Aristoteles, Politics, 1325b 32).
Social Relationships: yes, people are social creatures. Thereby obtaining meaning and satisfaction in life. This thread has been running through the various consideration levels and theories since the beginning of philosophy. In my view, Aristotle (at this early age) said it best: People are inherent political creatures (zoon politikon), where Polis here means a (small) community which has lively exchanges, that result in the desirable life. This reflects – intentionally or unintended, positive or negative - in the organization of work, especially gainful work. We have written extensively about this in our blog articles. On the subject of work, the second major social context that comes to mind is the possibility of participation in social life (the polis) via employment. And fortunately again solved at BeaS in a way that I consider sustainable, since it is humane. For me, a Social Collaboration is an affirmation of the principle of social relations at work and for work.
Sociality by Collaboration
„Jesus opposes the constant bustle and the impious race. He says: Do not make yourself crazy. In every work life, you have to be able to also stop and listen „ (This quote can be found here).
It is not completely exaggerated to determine that some ruin themselves in work, because they work too much, the pressure to perform is too high – thereby they are not only physically drained, but also unable to live social relations - , while the others ruin themselves because they are unable to keep up – or do not have any work at all. Thus, those are also excluded from the vital social relations. Both cases are the exact opposite of lived sociality. In addition to the purely physical or mental work, as a task Sociality needs the exchange and times, where you do something together, especially with colleagues, friends and family. This applies to private and professional. It also applies in an intertwining, where the private can be done while working, and where work can be done in private, as long as this does not lead to further performance demands. In this respect I am totally happy that we here at BeaS have the possibility to live both parts through the special kind of our collaboration – a practiced Social Collaboration. If you will, to be able to bring the professional Social in Line with the private Social.