Covid 19- let us not lose this unique opportunity to reshape work and society

The End of Work, by Jeremy Rifkin, 1995

It has been the greatest opportunity since the Industrial Revolution, for a change in how we view work, hours of work, location of work, the way work and life should interact, the meaning of work, the societal responsibility for distribution of work, restitution of a class structure of the haves (employed) and the have nots (unemployed, underemployed), resolution of the dangers of consumerism and exploitation of the destitute at the expense of empathy, etc. but it is being frittered away with meaningless words such as the New Normal, the Post Covid Normal, and the like.

Sadly, it is more of the same.

The hasty return to a New Normal to date has centered mainly on how many days the currently employed will be required to work from the work place and how many days to work from home.

There has been minimal thought on those who have suffered the effects of job losses, depression, loss of their businesses, loss of identity, as if this is merely collateral damage that one needs to accept as inevitable.

Return to work in many cases has been to a casual position, with underemployment looming large, but the statistics show employment in Australia on the rise irrespective of whether it is on a sustainable income.

This could have been a time when one ponders whether structural changes such as reviewing the change to a 3-day working week could be advocated by company executives, with the aim of improving the livelihood of those on the long term unemployed by employing them for the remaining 2 days of the week, so that there is a chance of full employment.

This might seem to be too radical or not sustainable.

However, Covid 19 should have shown us that the pursuit of wealth for its own sake or for power or seeming security, was no guarantee for being spared from the viciousness of the virus.

It should have showed us that we all can do more with less and still have a sustainable livelihood.

It should have showed us that having enough is more important than herding into offices daily for a 40 hour a week, which often turned into 60 hour a week, was taking its toll on our health, social connections, and general well being.

The argument will be that one cannot sustain oneself on a 3 day a week wage. The rising prices of homes, the higher standards of living, the need to keep up with the Joneses, the need to have not one, but two, or three or four investment properties, the need to buy brand name goods, flashy cars, the need to travel overseas often, the need to have a bigger home irrespective of whether it is way beyond ones requirements, etc. are all arguments for earning more.

Covid 19 should have shown us that all this is relative. Security is not in wealth, but in health, not in the rush for more, but the pursuit of less, not for borrowing beyond ones means but living within ones means.

Covid 19 should have shown us that however hard we feel impacted by the pandemic, there are always others more badly affected having lost all due to the pandemic.

It should have shown us that now is the time to extend our thoughts to those who have suffered through years of unemployment, underemployment, or just bad luck.

We can, and should give up something so that we can lift society from pure sustenance to decent livelihoods.

Eight years ago, I felt the need to embark on a new life, one that I termed the Earning, Learning and Giving (3+1+1=10) Life Work Model. This was to be an experiment to see whether the 3 day working week was just a pipe dream or can be a reality. It was also to address the very issue of underemployment and unemployment in Australia and overseas.

This was influenced by me reading The End of Work by Jeremy Rifkin way back in 1999, and deciding that one day I would make an effort to find a new Life Work Paradigm.

Eight years on, I am living a happy and meaningful life using the Model as a baseline.

Today, more than ever, I feel the need for governments, executives, influencers, radical thinkers, social scientists, thought leaders and entrepreneurs, to rethink work, society and the role and meaning of work in modern society.

Maybe if the idea of the split 3 day + 2 day working week is too radical, governments can look at the use of the Universal Basic Income (UBI) to complement those who are working the 3 day + 2 day working week so that the burden of paying unemployment benefits can be shifted to a new paradigm.

For executives who have been talking about the Triple Bottom Line Indicators, the social benefits of employing more people and bettering the livelihoods of so many, can be realised through this change.

This is a radical shift in thinking, but unless we start thinking differently in a post Covid 19 world, we will have wasted the once in a life time opportunity that has come to haunt each and every person in the universe- an event that will be remembered as a novel opportunity lost unless we dare to be different.

Let us look at how we can use and go beyond the 3+1+1= 10 Earning, Learning and Giving Life Work Model ( climpacheco1.com ) to create a new wave of opportunity for the world.

Let us Dare to be different.