the way we work

I just started reading Jenny Odell’s How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. Only twenty pages in and I’m already furious. The way we work must change.

An example from my own life: As my sister was working from home last summer, she often lamented having her boundaries crossed. With Covid, working in the office was impossible, but she felt violated when conducting meetings from her kitchen. Her new apartment became synonymous with the stress and anxiety of her tortuous job.

I told her a way to alleviate this is was to include a “commute to work” in her routine. Get up, get dressed, go outside and walk around the block, then return to the apartment to start her workday. When it came time to quit for the day, do the same thing in reverse: go outside, walk around the block, and return to the apartment, this time unwinding and kicking off her shoes as she came in the door.

It seems stupid, but setting these clear boundaries is important. In a world of personal brands, algorithm-curated content, and a cultural push to be more and more productive, setting boundaries allows your personhood to flourish.

Yes, labor for the purpose of financial security is a real thing. The crux of living in a late capitalist society is we must work in order to survive. But if we’ve given all of ourselves–all our time and attention–for the sake of our work, the question becomes, what are we surviving for?