The May 25th (2012) issue of Time Magazine arrived in my mailbox today and I was interested to see that the cover was dedicated to their feature article entitled "The Future of Work". I like Time because it generally represents a right-leaning, conservative viewpoint and I'm always interested in what people of that political bent are thinking (because I'm usually thinking quite the opposite).
Keeping its editorial bias in mind, I was a little surprised that Time actually seems to "get it". I rather expected them to stubbornly insist that traditional employee/employer relationships would remain much as they are now but in fact they presented a fairly thoughtful analysis of trends and recognize that freelancing and working at home will become more common in spite of conservative resistance.
On the other hand, I think they missed something important: there's a political backlash against free-wheeling capitalism and this may have influence on freelancers as well as traditional employees. If we manage to pass universal health insurance, no matter how screwed up it is it will make self employment easier for many people. On the other hand, laws designed to protect employees from corporate abuse may make freelancing more difficult - if the IRS and other laws force a company to view you as an employee in spite of your desire to be free, you may not be able to get work from that company.
Ethics was mentioned. Ethics was, of course, a large part of what caused our recent depression. Unbridled greed isn't ethical but it's hard to legislate greed out of a system that seems to champion behavior that exhibits just that. Time suggests that licensing managers much as we license doctors and lawyers is one answer, but that seems unlikely to me: we obviously still have ethics issues with licensed professionals. I personally lean toward punitive taxation, but very few agree with me on that.
Time also noticed the the entire concept of success is also changing. I've long been a proponent of that: to me, success is having free time to enjoy my life and while money is important, quality of life and overall happiness is much more so. Piling up cash while being miserably unhappy is not success; apparently more and more of us are recognizing that and some companies are responding by offering more flex time or shorter working hours instead of more traditional incentives.
Overall, Time did a good job and I recommend picking up that issue if you aren't a subscriber. In many ways, as depressing as the current work climate may be for many people, at the same time we have incredible opportunities that have never existed before. People talk about "re-inventing" themselves - it has never been more possible to do so than it is today. No, it's not necessarily easy, but technology has made these things POSSIBLE.
Personally, I'm a big fan of self employment. Again, that's easier today than it has ever been in the past and Time did recognize that entrepreneurship is becoming increasingly less difficult. It's really amazing what can be done today for very low startup costs. It's not just in the pure digital world; even things like printing custom fabric can be done now for a relatively small investment. I was also interested to read how little investment was needed for clay aerogel manufacturing. You can easily find many other examples of businesses that used to require large investments in manpower or equipment but now can be started on a shoestring and run by a very small number of people - sometimes just one!
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2012-08-04 Anthony Lawrence