How and Why Is Work Meaningful (Beyond Survival Needs)?: Setting a Baseline

How and Why Is Work Meaningful (Beyond Survival Needs)?: Setting a Baseline

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2509-8.ch004
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To understand the concerns about how humanity, writ large, may react to lessened availability of work, it may help to explore how and why work is meaningful to people, beyond subsistence and survival. This work involves the exploration of the academic literature for how and why work is meaningful, based on issues of human identities, self-actualization, self-expression, sociality, and other aspects. This work sets a baseline against which future substitutions for human needs-meeting may be achieved beyond work in a projected future.
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In a time of fewer jobs, at the lived level, people take on a variety of behaviors. They may make do with less and downsize. Those who are older workers may simply retire earlier than planned. They may monetize their skills by taking on additional jobs. They may work in a gig economy. They may sell some of their possessions. They may rely on family and friends and colleagues for survival. They may tap into government programs, if eligible, or rely on the kindness of others and use social services from food banks and shelters. Or they may engage a number of different strategies and tactics, to ensure that basic survival needs are met—for food, shelter, healthcare, and other foundational needs.

At a lived level, when asked, people may identify various needs that may be met through their work beyond subsistence. They may point to values which are expressed, such as military personnel who enable national security, weather service personnel who enable weather-awareness for various types of preparedness, artists who explore human identity and the universe and aesthetics, teachers who empower learners, and so on. For individuals, they may point to aspects of themselves who can be expressed through their work endeavors; they may point to a sense of their own identity and meaning-making through their professional roles; they may point to aspects of their work lifestyles that inform their sense of personal meaning, and others. If asked what people might do if they had less access to work, there are a variety of responses as well. Some express welcome at having a less demanding work schedule. Others say that they will shift their attention to some of their current non-work interests. Others say that they will pursue part-time employment. Beyond the personal, the academic research literature offers some insights on what of work is personally meaningful. Setting a baseline for what makes work meaningful may support public awareness and policy-making endeavors in this public-private free market space, in light of the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sharing Economy (or Gig Economy): An economic system in which formerly non-commercial assets (housing, cars, domestic services, and others) are shared between private individuals, usually for a fee (and sometimes mediated by apps).

Amotivation: The absence of motivation.

Exploitation: Benefitting from known information (in a learning context).

Application (App): A software program with a dedicated purpose.

Work: Labor-based activity requiring mental and / or physical inputs, tasks.

Value: The worth of something.

Job Crafting: Employee customization of their jobs by changing work tasks and interactions with colleagues.

Intrinsic Motivation: “The inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise one’s capacities, to explore, and to learn” (Ryan & Deci, Jan. 2000 AU178: The in-text citation "Jan. 2000" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. , p. 70).

Gig Economy (or Sharing Economy): Temporary work, a job whose duration goes for a determined period of time.

Extrinsic Motivation: “The performance of an activity in order to attain some separable outcome” beyond inherent satisfaction from the activity (Ryan & Deci, Jan. 2000 AU177: The in-text citation "Jan. 2000" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. , p. 70), external reasons for taking certain actions from outside the individual.

Moral Worth: The way an action is valued or not, based on various dimensions (like Kantian duty, like outcomes, and others).

Compensation: Payment of moneys and other resources for work.

Meta-Needs: Human needs beyond the basic ones for survival [including belonging, affection, respect, and self-esteem], as conceptualized by Abraham Maslow in 1971, to reach the level of self-transcendence.

Crowdwork (or Crowd Employment): The tasking of people via websites to achieve particular projects.

Baseline: A starting point for describing a phenomenon, a foundational level set for comparisons.

Exploration: Searching for as-yet unknown information (in a learning context), such as in a research and development (R&D) context.

Meaning: The definition or interpretation ascribed to a thing.

Ridesourcing: The use of an app to access a ride service provided through “sharing” or “gig” economy practices.

Heteromation: The importance of human labor in technological “automation” systems (Ekbia, Nardi, & Šabanovic, 2015, p. 1).

Moral Injury: Harm to a person’s conscience.

Reification: Turning an abstract concept into something real or concrete.

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