Simple September: Work Changes Since the 70’s

This week, at the halfway point of my Simple September, living in the 70’s experiment, I’ve been giving some thought to the changes we’ve seen in our workplaces since the 1970’s.  It’s difficult to list the dramatic transformations that have occurred to our working lives over the last 40 years, but I’ll pop some paper in the ol’ typewriter and give it a go.

Harsh cutbacks lead to some 'creative' use of the remaining office furniture

For starters, the tasteless calendars, ashtrays on desks, poorly lit and badly ventilated buildings, asbestos everything, smoked filled rooms, ceiling fans, pub lunches, and horseplay involving pinching secretaries’ bottoms or stuffing apprentice’s undies full of grease, have gone out the window.  In fact, windows’ have gone out the window.

Modern offices are tightly sealed, climate controlled, and noiseless environments.  These days, the only people getting fresh air, a little exercise, and some idea of what the weather is like outside, are smokers.

But nothing has transformed our working lives quite so dramatically as the computer.  We’ve grown so reliant on them that it’s hard to imagine how our offices, factories, small businesses, and ladies of the night, ever functioned without them.

In the 70’s we were boldly assured that super-efficient computers would halve our work and create paperless offices.  Well, they were sort of right; they seem to have halved the number of people at work.

Shackled to computers for long hours, many of todays’ employees tend to eat smoko ‘Al Desko’, super-efficiently catching up on news websites, forums, online games, or funny emails.  And we’ve nearly achieved the paperless office, simply by stuffing the mounds of paper on top of our printers and photocopiers straight into overflowing recycling bins.

Modern managers now work 24/7, conducting online meetings, texting, tweeting and emailing questions, reports, directives, or butt kicking’s, via their mobile devices.  Honestly, medieval peasants had more quality time off than these wretches, only because the bumpkins had to stop working when the sun went down.

Then there are all the jobs that didn’t make it past the year 2000: typewriter engineers, grocery packers, fuel pump attendants, tea ladies, paperboys, milkmen, and Telstra repairmen.

My grandchildren will be doing jobs that don’t exist now, and hopefully in forty years’ time they’ll have something that an aging dinosaur like me could do; probably outside in all weather, strapped into my hover chair, cleaning office windows and picking up cigarette butts.

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