Jim Duffy: Aiming to become a square peg in a square hole

Are you in the right job? We most certainly live in a capitalist society, where there is a value placed on work.

Jim Duffy would rather be a 'free-range hen' than caged up for 24 hours. Picture: Ian Howarth
Jim Duffy would rather be a 'free-range hen' than caged up for 24 hours. Picture: Ian Howarth

For many of you that means getting up early, getting home late or working shifts as many of the blue light services do. From our school days, we are conditioned into a work-like mentality, where we again had to get up early and spend the day in structured tranches of time.

I’m not sure how fulfilled I felt at school, but it did give me a set of qualifications that catapulted me into further education. This in turn provided more preparation for the world of “work”.

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But, what is the point of work? Is it simply to pay the bills and afford us a lifestyle we aspire to?

Surely there has to be more to work than adding money to our bank accounts each month? Even the term work has pejorative connotations for so many. Work is seen as something we have to do – we have no choice in the matter.

Work means we are told what to do by bosses or line managers – and there is an element of control over our lives – in order to get that pay cheque at the end of the month. How we perceive the office place or factory floor or shop as we arrive for work each day says a lot about you… not your employer.

You have a choice: you can work somewhere you love and enjoy, or you can work somewhere that gets you down and adds no real meaning to your life. Organisations and corporates are spending piles of cash to make the workplace environment a better place to be.

The big tech companies are falling over themselves to create spaces where their employees feel “special”. This is all designed to stimulate positivity, teamwork, a sense of belonging and a better work ethic. They have to be commended for this and many others are following suit. After all, you are the most important asset your employer has . . . apart from its customers.

I’d rather be a free-range hen running about an organic field in the open air as opposed to a battery hen caged up for 24 hours. I’m guessing I’d feel a lot happier.

Add to this in-house HR and people development programmes and it demonstrates that many big companies do indeed value their human capital and work hard to keep it happy and in place.

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But, there has to be more to work than this. More and more of us want to have more autonomy in our work and to feel what we are doing has relevance to us: none more so than the Millennials. That is why so many people have left what we might call traditional jobs and careers to work in the gig-economy. It’s booming.

Companies like Uber and Deliveroo are offering liberation to workers and the chance to be their own bosses. The huge painpoint for on-demand services has meant that these tech companies and many like them have attracted more than five million UK workers.

Of course, they are not all happy and with all new disruption comes a period of challenge. Uber recently lost an employment tribunal in London, where the court ruled that Uber’s 40,000 or so UK drivers were in fact not self-employed and that the company should pay them the national minimum wage and other employment benefits such as holiday pay. That said, every Uber I’ve used, the driver has been friendly, chirpy and professional. In short, happy at work.

For me, my ideal work place is a Mac notebook, a cup of coffee and either a mountain range vista from my window or a view out to the sea. I could write there all day.

My question is: what does work mean to you? Whether it’s a shiny new build with a table tennis table and free Costa coffee or the inside of a Toyota Prius as you Uber passengers across the city. Are you feeling a sense of satisfaction together with the knowledge that you are a square peg in a square hole – at least for this year?

• Agitator and disruptor Jim Duffy is Head of #GoDo at Entrepreneurial Spark