Reorganising the use of time
Technological progress, the development of large-scale production, and division of labour with the specialisation and assembly-line methods to which it leads, have impoverished the worker's relationship to his work. The work process is often broken down into simple and constantly repeated operations so that the worker has no real feeling of contributing to the final product or result. Work is consequently unsatisfying and there are increasing signs of discontent. Fatigue now tends to be nervous rather than physical as formerly, and may disturb the individual's psychosomatic health, emotional life, and powers of attention and thought. The whole process is one of increasing alienation, attributable to two main causes: dissatisfaction with the actual tasks involved in the job, which give no scope for self-fulfilment, and dissatisfaction with extraneous factors, such as the physical conditions, supervision, the state of labour relations, etc.3
Now, employee alienation represents labour's share of the social cost of a given activity. In some cases it is shown by passive resistance: lateness, absenteeism, high labour turnover and inattentiveness; in others, by aggressive behaviour such as deliberate waste, threats, violence or quarrelsomeness in daily work.4
In spite of the changed working environment and social climate, there is still a rigid pattern of working hours that leaves practically no scope for individual choice. Rationalisation of individual and group behaviour has gone so far that it almost entirely eliminates spontaneity, initiative and imagination. The individual has in many cases ceased to have any influence on the timing and schedules of the work process. Yet these are among the main variables as regards his job and working conditions. This explains the strong reaction aiming at the removal of all avoidable constraints and at less standardised and more personal patterns of behaviour.
There is justifiable pressure to get rid of outdated or harmful forms and methods of work, and this has been partly responsible for the gradual introduction of new ways of organising work taking account, among other things, of progress in the behavioural sciences. Many believe that a revolution in attitudes to work is taking place and that it can only lead to a completely new framework for work.
The question that most are asking concerns the direction of change in conditions of work, i.e. new patterns of working time, improved pay systems, wider application of ergonomics, new and more imaginative ways or organising work, increased protection of the physical and social environment. Out of these various alternatives, it does seem that a loosening of the constraints so as to allow some degree of freedom to organise one's own working time is one of the best means of reducing the feeling of being a slave to one's work and improving the quality of working life.
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