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Work In Progress

Work → In Progress: Time To Change Everything Or Back To Business As Usual?

Photo of a person working from home

Person working from home

Bertrand Hauger, Anne-Sophie Goninet, Laure Gautherin and Emma Albright

The world of work is at a crossroads. A new French study published last week shows that in the span of four years, jobs offering remote work have increased tenfold since 2017, as the world grapples with the long-term impact of COVID-19. The profound questioning of the necessity to “go to the office” that the pandemic posed led to teleworking becoming a “new normal” of sorts, with the majority of businesses implementing hybrid models that allow employees to work remotely while still having access to the necessary resources they need to do their jobs ...

… that is, until it was "back to business as usual." But returning to office-based work, as most parts of the world consider the coronavirus crisis more or less a thing of the past, it is becoming apparent to some that things would, and should, never be the same.


The post-pandemic world of work then is caught in a conundrum — trapped between the temptation to go back to its old ways, or incorporating the flexibility that companies had to resort to in recent years and opt for radical changes to what working means. This edition of Work → In Progress focuses on how this dilemma materializes in workplaces around the world.

Germans argue about 25-hour work week

Germany’s ruling Social Democratic Party recently called for the introduction of a 25-hour work week, arguing that it's the only way to end "self-exploitation." The SPD explained its approach saying that “employees will not suffer financial losses and that the reduction in working hours can be achieved through adjusting staffing levels.” But even as the experiment is met with success in a number of countries, some economists and legal experts remain confused. “What a strange understanding of work,” argues German expert in labor law Gregor Thüsing in Die Welt.

France and remote work: It’s complicated

Teleworking, a life-saving solution for many a business in pandemic times, seems to be less and less in the cards. According to French daily Ouest-France, in April 2022, 9.8% of jobs posted on LinkedIn offered the possibility of working from home — but only five months later, that percentage had dropped to 5.97%. In addition to that désamour, French employers lament the lack of a concrete legal frame regarding remote work. In an interview with French economic daily Capital, Lucien Flament, a lawyer specialized in workers’ rights said that it was difficult to translate office rules to an employee’s home. As a consequence, Flament considered the possibility that some employers could visit their employees at home — to check on their work conditions and general respect of the company’s professional etiquette.

THE ODD JOB

The recent progress in AI-generated art and content, with programs like OpenAI’s DALL-E for images or ChatGPT for text, has created a whole new business revolving around the ability to come up with the right set of words. Understanding what kind of image an algorithm will produce when fed a certain phrase has thus become a craft, leading a new generation of programmers to specialize in prompt writing.

Spain introduces a “digital nomad visa”

The Spanish parliament recently approved the Startup Act which includes a “digital nomad visa” for remote non-EU workers. Although some requirements apply, like being employed for more than three months, minimum monthly income, limited Spanish clients for freelancers… recipients would be allowed to live and work in the country for up to three years. After being ratified by the Senate, the bill is set to come into effect in January 2023.

Meet “burn-on,” burnout’s never-quit cousin

Feeling overworked but not yet burned out? In Die Welt, Beate Strobel, a psychologist at the Kloster Diessen Psychosomatic Clinic, may diagnose you with a bad case of “burn-on.” It sees workers try to combat sustained periods of stress at work by working even harder, which raises stress levels further and reduces productivity even more. Read more about burn-on here.

STAT DU JOUR

A record 6.5% of all Australian workers are working two or more jobs, the Sydney Morning Herald reports — a situation notably caused by young Australians cumulating low-paid gigs to face the high cost of living in the country.

Japanese women suffer from persistent child care imbalance

The 17th annual Women’s Forum 2022 took place earlier this month, gathering representatives from 175 countries to discuss a wide range of topics relating to women in the workplace. Japan was among the countries singled out: There, women can only access most of the childbirth and childcare support if they are employed by a company. The Forum highlighted the necessity to develop social structures and systems that help women regardless of their social backgrounds or current state of employment. Solving this imbalance could lead Japan to address a number of labor-related issues linked to its aging population and declining productivity.

No need to be “fun” to keep your job

Can companies fire employees who are not so keen on joining colleagues for afterwork merriment? France says “non”: the country’s Court of Cassation has ruled that workers cannot be given the boot if they refuse to adhere to “the fun & pro value of a company.” The ruling was based on a case involving a leading consultant who sued his former company after he was sacked for refusing to participate in seminars and end-of-the-week parties, which he felt encouraged excessive consumption of alcohol.

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Ideas

In A World Of Hunger And Greed, Knowledge For Its Own Sake Is More Vital Than Ever

Students are now paying customers and the world revolves around capital and commerce. But reading and education are our best forms of both pleasure and resistance. Reminders from assassinated Spanish poet Federico García Lorca.

In A World Of Hunger And Greed, Knowledge For Its Own Sake Is More Vital Than Ever

"The classics are not read to get a degree, but to learn to live."

Reinaldo Spitaletta

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — In 1931, when inaugurating the public library of his hometown of Fuente Vaqueros in southern Spain, the poet Federico García Lorca gave a speech about hunger. He spoke of a hunger for learning and its baser variety, inside the belly, denouncing those who speak of economic demands without ever mentioning the cultural needs "for which peoples have cried out."

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