November 2011 Archives

Earlier this month there was an article on Yahoo! on the "6 Worst Home Fixes for the Money." The worst of the six is a home office remodel. Part of the rationale is that with the proliferation of wireless devices, people can work anywhere. Fair enough. But what caught my attention was the advice given for those selling a house with a home office: "call it a study, den or hobby room....don't use words that invoke images of actual work. Or the office." So that's where we stand as a society. Work is so lousy that we shouldn't dare bringing up images of work when trying to sell positive visions of our home. As work is currently structured, our work is something we need to escape from and leave elsewhere. Certainly workers should enjoy time away from work. But if work is so lousy that we shouldn't "invoke images of actual work," then we need to re-think how we as a society structure work. Lastly, note that this suggestion to avoid bringing images of work into the home also reflects a longstanding, gender-biased view of work in which child-rearing, cooking, housework, and other caring activities done within the home are not real work. Indeed, real work is already going on in our homes! We need to re-think how we think about and value work.

What is Work, and Why Does it Matter?

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What is work? Is it just a burden to tolerate, or something more? Does it even matter what work is and how it is defined? Yes! Work-related public policies, laws, and judges' decisions are all implicitly shaped by an often unstated view of work. For example, if someone implicitly sees work as a freely-exchanged commodity, it is then difficult to see how workers who were fired for trying to organize a labor union should enjoy any special protections. In contrast, if someone sees work as an activity done by citizens entitled to rights of self-determination, then protections for concerted activity are likely seen as important, as was the case for the creators of the NLRA.


Welcome to my blog about work. I am a university professor who researches and teaches about diverse aspects of work, employment, and related institutions (e.g., labor unions) from a multidisciplinary perspective drawing on scholarship in industrial relations, economics, law, sociology, psychology, ethics, theology, and other disciplines.

This page is an archive of entries from November 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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About this Blog

Whither Work? is a blog about work created by John Budd. I am a professor of Work and Organizations in the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, and the author of several books including The Thought of Work. Follow me on Twitter: @JohnWBudd.