Work Futures Daily | So Digestible!

| Self-Management | Remember the Sabbath | Late-Shift Transit | Time Bomb of Automation | Giorgio Bassani | Platforms as Commons? |

Photo by Jacob Shutler on Unsplash

Beacon NY | 2019–09–09 | I’ve seen a number of compliments about Work Futures Daily in recent weeks, the most recent include these (forgive the image: Substack doesn’t support embedding Tweets?):


Implementing Self-Management: Here’s How It’s Done | The Corporate Rebels examine the few companies that are actually practicing self-managing, and blueprint the hard work they went through to get there. Worth reading. Somehow I had hoped they would look for and detail the similarities across these pioneering companies. Maybe coming in a later update?


Let’s bring back the Sabbath as a radical act against ‘total work’ | William Black looks into the ancient roots of the Sabbath — the fourth commandment’s ‘Remember the Sabbath, and keep it holy’ — and argues we might be well-served to return to that thinking in a time when we worship at the altar of overwork:

We are expected to compete with each other for our own labour, so that we each become our own taskmaster, our own pharaoh. Offer your employer more and more work for the same amount of pay, so that you undercut your competition — more and more bricks, and you’ll even bring your own straw.

In our neo-pharaonic economy, we are worth no more than the labour we can perform, and the value of our labour is being ever devalued. We can never work enough. A profit-driven capitalist society depends on the anxious striving for more, and it would break down if there were ever enough.

The Sabbath has no place in such a society and indeed upends its most basic tenets. In a Sabbatarian economy, the right to rest — the right to do nothing of value to capital — is as holy as the right to work. We can give freely to the poor and open our homes to refugees without being worried that there will be nothing left for us. We can erase all debts from our records, because it is necessary for the community to be whole.

It is time for us, whatever our religious beliefs, to see the Sabbatarian laws of old not as backward and pharisaical, but rather as the liberatory statements they were meant to be. It is time to ask what our society would look like if it made room for a new Sabbath — or, to put it a different way, what our society would need to look like for the Sabbath to be possible.

If the Israelite slaves could stand up to Pharaoh and kept the Sabbath sacred, maybe we could stand up to our own inclination to give up everything for work.


Late shift transit: How lagging service harms vulnerable workers | Patrick Sisson reviews a new report on how late-night workers get shafted by lack of transit options:

The American work day is 24 hours, but most public transit is oriented for the 9-to-5ers. A transit gap late at night and early in the morning is a growing burden for an expanding, and overlooked, part of the country’s workforce.

A new report by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), “Supporting Late-Shift Workers: Their Transportation Needs and the Economy,” released yesterday, calls for transit agencies, employers, and local governments to band together and make a renewed effort to help this often-overlooked constituency of transit riders.

These commuters typically get left behind when it comes to transit options for their commutes, adding to the problems caused by an underfunded transit systems and a disconnect between job locations and affordable housing, which make commutes longer, regardless of the time of day. Affordable transportation can give workers a leg up in employment, the opportunity to take a new job, and the security to save more money. As public transit ridership in the U.S. goes through a ridership crisis, it’s only more vital that riders at night don’t get ignored.


Why Fast Food Is the Ticking Time Bomb of Job Automation | Brian Merchant reports on why fast food will be the first industry totally automated:

Typically, one of the major sources of resistance to automating a process, task, or entire job is the impact it will have on a salaried employee. Layoffs look bad for the company doing the automating, there are myriad social factors in play that create resistance — management will be reluctant to fire longtime employees, for one — and there is risk involved in setting up new machinery, which may take years to get running smoothly.

But in an industry that turns its entire staff over every year — especially one in which the bulk of its jobs are intended to be an agglomeration of repetitive tasks like taking and inputting orders, adding and arranging ingredients to a dish, and cleaning floors and tables — corporations and middle management will spend a lot less time weighing social factors and nursing concerns about optics. Hell, fast food is already one of the worst-regarded jobs because workers are openly treated with so little dignity, the benefits range from threadbare to nonexistent, and the wages are so low.

All of which is to say: As soon as the fast food companies can automate those jobs, they will. The only things preventing those companies from doing so are the projected costs and the functionality of the automated systems. That’s it.

Ghost kitchens and food delivery services are also eating away at the other end of the restaurant business.

Quote of the Day

The past is not dead. It never dies. Although it moves further away: at every passing moment. To recover the past is thus possible. What’s required, however, if one really has the desire to recover it, is to travel down a kind of corridor which grows longer at every instant.

| Giorgio Bassani


Are Platforms Commons? | Stowe Boyd | Before sweeping regulation of platforms as common carriers, should we instead reconfigure them as commons, governed by the participants?


Even Physicists Don’t Understand Quantum Mechanics | A classic Kuhn generational conflict, in physics.


How Does WeWork Make Money? | According to CBInsights, by taking away the pain of space transitions for its customers. How much is that pain avoidance worth?

WeWork gives its tenants something that is ordinarily hard to find: a flexible space, on-demand, with short-term leases (in some cases, even on a month-to-month basis). This solves a problem that plagues fast-growing startups especially: the process of finding a new office space, moving in, signing a long-term lease, remodeling the space, and moving out to start it all over again somewhere else.

When a company outgrows its WeWork membership, it can upgrade to a more spacious option, a private office, or even a private floor — reducing friction from transitions. Customers don’t have to think about all the minutiae of renting office space, and they get access to plenty of office perks (free coffee, fast internet, and so on).

For landlords, WeWork offers significant value as well, including higher rents, an expanded tenant pool, and increases in real estate values. In a blog post published in 2018, the company reported rent premiums in buildings it occupies in New York and Los Angeles of between 15–29%. The company estimates that it has generated $250M in additional revenue for landlords in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles alone.

This reciprocation of value is key to WeWork’s flywheel model — the engine of this billion-dollar company’s sky-high valuation.

Which fell by half this week, pre-IPO, as the smokescreen of ‘WeWork as tech company’ is clearing.