Our current (but changing) mindset is to think of work in the following way. Full-time work, dedicated work space, and regular daytime week hours are correlated. Work occurs Monday to Friday, 9-to-5, in a particular dedicated space and for a particular organisation. Anything outside these spatial and temporal boundaries is either non-work or not-really-work.
We seem to be moving towards a model where work is more often part-time, with flexible hours, for multiple organisations, and occurring at different locations. However, this is by no means a new phenomenon. Let’s look at these very common professions – to quote a few:
- Doctors and nurses may work more during the day, but 24 hour and week-end presence is required from some at least.
- Teachers spend about one third of the time in front of a class, and two thirds preparing classes or correcting papers – which occurs in all sorts of settings, including offices, cafes, public transport or bed.
- Cleaners typically work when others are not around, and pretty much everywhere.
- Hospitality workers are flexible – a typical ‘daytime’ restaurant will open from 10h30am to 11pm – but start at 6 or 7am if they serve breakfast.
- Drivers – whether of trains, buses, trams, taxis, planes or trucks – work 5am to 12pm, and sometimes round the clock. A number of people in the transport industry will be around to support them.
When we think of new models for work – whether it’s part-time allocation, flexible work hours, or work outside the office – let’s not forget that these very common professions have been doing exactly that for years. These are by no means marginal phenomena, and maybe there’s something we can learn from them.
Please, feel free to share reflections here!