Work, motivation, deciding if it’s broke and if we have balance

by Todd Jones ([email protected]) 165 views 

As we go through an economic change in our country, the ideas of work may be changing as well. A much larger number of people are self-employed and working remotely.

Four recent TED talks take a look at work from different angles. How has work changed for you? Do you have a different understanding of work than you did a few years ago?

“Why doesn’t work happen at work”
TEDxMidwest, Chicago, IL 2010

Jason Fried is the co-founder of 37Signals which is now Basecamp. In this TEDx video, Fried turns conventional wisdom about work on its head. This particular TEDx talk took place in 2010 at TEDxMidwest in Chicago.

Fried starts the talk with a question he typically asks people about work, “Where do you need to go when you need to get something done?” Fried claims that you generally get one of three answers: 1) A place or a location, 2) A moving object – like a train or commuting, and 3) A time such as early morning or late at night.

Fried talks about the difference in distractions and claims that distractions at work are involuntary distractions which workers cannot control. He says that workers need long periods of uninterrupted time to get things completed; however, he says that work offers tons of interruptions making a day full of work moments.

Fried compares work to sleep saying that both are completed in stages or phases.

Fried then offers three quick suggestions: 1) No Talk Thursdays – silence for an extended period of time, 2) Passive models of communication – less face-to-face and more email and Instant Messaging, and, finally 3) Cancel the next meeting.

“What makes us feel good about our work?”
TEDxRiodelaPlata October 2012
Technopolis, Vicente López, Buenos Aires Province

Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University. He is also the founder of Advanced Hindsight and co-founder of BEworks.

Ariely presented his TEDx talk at the October 2012 TEDxRiodelaPlata. The talk discussed the differences between work motivations. He discusses a series of experiments his team did to evaluate motivation for work.

Throughout their tests, what they revealed is that people look for meaning in their work, not just reward (i.e. pay). Ariely believes that, now that we are in an information economy, meaning is just as important as the efficiency of the Industrial Revolution.

Ariely says, “So when we think about labor, we usually think about motivation and payment as the same thing, but the reality is that we should probably add all kinds of things to it — meaning, creation, challenges, ownership, identity, pride, etc.”

“The way we think about work is broken”
Vancouver, BC, March 19, 2014

Barry Schwartz is a Psychologist and the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College. The TED talk took place in Vancouver, British Columbia at TED2014.

Dr. Schwartz explores the question of “Why do we work?” Do we work for pay or do we have other motives? Employees are then incentivized by paychecks rather than fulfillment.

The notion that social scientists’ theories can cultivate a system such as the Industrial Revolution, perpetuating the idea by Adam Smith that workers are lazy, is called “idea technology,” according to Schwartz.

He adds that human nature is still being created and we can help shape that through “designing the institutions within which people live and work.”

“How to make work-life balance work”
TEDxSydney 2010
Sydney, Australia

Nigel Marsh is an entrepreneur and author. Marsh delivered his talk at the TEDxSydney in Sydney, Australia on May 22, 2010.

In his talk, Marsh told how he “stepped back from workforce” for a year to spend time with his family and help him recover some work-life balance and made four observations.

First, “if society’s to make any progress on this issue, we need an honest debate.” Marsh thinks that the types of things we have come up with to help such as “casual Friday” is not getting to the core of the issue but rather addressing the outer bands.

Second is “we need to face the truth that governments and corporations aren’t going to solve this issue for us.” Marsh says that it is up to us to make these kind of changes and have a more balanced work-life relationship.

His third observation is “we have to be careful with the time frame that we choose upon which to judge our balance.” Marsh recognizes we have to to be realistic in our attempts to have a work-life balance and that we will never get it all in one day.

Marsh’s fourth observation is “We need to approach balance in a balanced way.” Marsh recognizes that we have an intellectual, spiritual and emotional side and that our approach must balance all of these parts of our lives. He says small changes in the right places can change our quality of life and our relationships.