Can I go a year outside the usual structures of work and still make a living?
To fully question what 'work' is conceptually, structurally and personally, understand the mechanisms it perpetuates in our lives, how it continues to evolve and how it could perhaps be changed for the better, I need to change my relationship with it.
As of September 3rd 2014, I was not directly employed. I set off on this project with nothing lined up but an open mind and enough money in the bank to last around one month. From that point on I was working solely within the parameters of The Work Project.
We all spend a lot of our lives working. I’ve had experiences where I’ve been frustrated, trapped or even hated work. During a conversation at a barbecue I spoke to someone who told me that
Everyone hates work. The only reason we tolerate it is to be able to afford a couple of drinks at the weekend.
While I know that’s not true for everyone, the idea that there are many who are disengaged, in the wrong jobs, unhappy, trapped or just haven’t ever considered that there may be an alternative, is a little disturbing. I’ve worked lots with organisations, helping them understand how to make their teams more productive and more engaged, but this is about looking at our relationship with work from the other side – that of the workers.
I want to see if I can find a way to make work better, offer an alternative approach, show people like my barbecue friend that the status quo can be changed. The only way to do that is by living the attempt in a way that matters – so much so, that my ability to feed my family depends on it.
Parameters, not Rules
I’ve never been a fan of rules, but I need some parameters to give this experiment a point of reference, particularly as I need to understand everything from the work we do, through to the way we assign value, how organisations process relationships with individuals, the way work is recognised and recompensed.
The basic premise is this:
I’ll work anywhere in the world, consider any offer, but reserve the right to say no.
I’ll continue to pursue work based around my expertise – partly because it’s relevant to the subject matter of the project, partly because it demonstrates you can make a living from what you’re good at.
Work can be approached as flexibly or inflexibly as the relationship with the employer allows, to explore the key structures and concepts we use to frame the idea of ‘work’.
Ideas to Explore
Building my own journey to earning a living in a new way is just part of the project. As I go, I’ll be interviewing, creating case studies and conversations with workers and the organisations they inhabit. Where circumstance allows, I also plan to experiment with progressive themes like:
- Removing pre-determined rates/ fees.
- Pay what you think my work is worth.
- Non-financial payments.
The core aim is to keep an open mind. The Work Project could take me anywhere, success will be that I’m earning a living in some way after 12 months. Ultimately, being able to share others that there is a different way to understand and approach work would be amazing.
I Need Your Help
This way of working depends a lot on people, relationships, honesty and trust. I'd love for you to get involved. Employ me, spread the word, give me honest feedback, make suggestions, input in any way you can - it's all useful! See the sidebar for some of the ways you can play a part in The Work Project.
This is an opportunity to frame a conversation on work and understand it in a way may improve things for organisations and their people alike. Your insights and opinions are as important as my experiences.Back To Projects