The contemporary “Gig Economy” is said to be the New Way of Working. Freelance workers are “free” to hustle for gigs and work as much or as little as they want.
But people are still people, and work still sucks, mostly.
But workers are on their own.
It isn’t too surprising to me that both the Coworking Movement and the Freelancers Union are coming to talk about mental health. Liz Elam includes “wellness” and dealing with loneliness as a top megatrend in coworking.
And this month, Sensei Tyra Seldon muses on “slowing down” in the Freelancers Union Blog.
I admit that my reaction to here headline, “Can slowing down make you more productive?” was, “I hope the answer is, ‘yes’?” For one thing, going slow is definitely in my personal wheelhouse. : – ) But also, advancing faster by moving slower is a natural strength of older workers, who face brutal challenges in the gig economy.
Anyway, what Sensei Seldon is actually talking about is not so much working slower, as living simpler. In particular, she’s talking about turning it off.
She starts with the ubiquitous problem of digital distraction. Recording how she spends her time yielded alarming results: lot’s of activity, much of it irrelevant.
“Whereas I thought my 60-hour weeks were signs of my being a dedicated entrepreneur and being uber productive, this reality check proved otherwise.”
She did the obvious experiment, i.e., turning it off. Spending more time in face-to-face conversations. She also started to redefine “productivity”, to include “things that were meaningful and valuable”, such as meditation, prayer, and journalng.
And she liked it.
Even better, she worked better.
“I don’t think I can fully go back to the person who I was”
I’m not in the least surprised by Seldon’s experience. There is a large and growing literature that tells us that constant digital engagement is bad for you in many ways. (here, here, here, here, here, here)
It is also true that one of the principle reasons that contemporary coworking was created is to deal with the need for face-to-face interactions. Today’s workers are well connected digitally, but many are more socially isolated than ever. It is important not just to unplug to take care of yourself, we have to take care of each other. The best way to do that is to talk face-to-face.
These problem have been around for a long time. Working in a conventional organization is generally just as bad or worse as freelancing in this regard. In a conventional job, it isn’t easy to tell your boss that you don’t look busy because you are doing something more important than her deliverables.
The best thing here is that Freelancers actually can unplug and focus on more than being “busy”. In this, the contemporary Gig Economy is directly attacking one of the most critical problems facing contemporary workers. If Freelancing and Coworking end up actually helping people live a better life, then they will be counted as great and successful innovations in working.
- Tyra Seldon, Can slowing down make you more productive?, in Freelancers Union Blog. 2018. https://blog.freelancersunion.org/2018/01/15/can-slowing-down-make-you-more-productive-2/