Decoding the Evolving Landscape of Work: A New Glossary for Modern Work Terms

by Jun 5, 2024All Posts, Fair Work, Human Resources

The vocabulary of work is constantly changing, reflecting the evolving nature of our professional lives. This glossary was created to enhance our understanding of the current and future work environment. It includes lesser-known terms and phrases that highlight the significant changes happening in the workplace.

These terms shine a light on the crucial issues faced by the most vital element of any organisation – the workers.

Some terms might have multiple interpretations, and some are newly coined to describe emerging trends. While there may be debate over these definitions, the aim here is to grasp the broader implications they suggest about the future of work.

This glossary challenges the traditional, tech-centric, and corporate perspectives on the future of work. It encourages us to consider the unconventional aspects of work’s future and critically assess if these are the directions we desire.

A New Lexicon for the Future of Work

Automated Management

Automated management uses algorithms and artificial intelligence to oversee, monitor, and manage employees remotely. This system automates or semi-automates tasks like performance reviews, productivity monitoring, and even terminations, allowing workers to interact primarily with a computer system that makes these decisions.

Mental Underload

Mental underload, akin to burnout, is a psychological state leading to health issues due to prolonged lack of mental engagement at work. It involves boredom, insufficient challenge, and disinterest in tasks.

Employee Monitoring Software

Employee monitoring software, or bossware, collects extensive data on employees’ device usage beyond what is necessary for workforce management. It tracks metrics such as work hours, mouse clicks, keystrokes, location, screenshots, and webcam images.

Digital Presenteeism

Digital presenteeism, or the digital leash, describes the expectation for employees to respond to work-related communications (calls, texts, emails, etc.) even when they are ill, working beyond normal hours, or outside regular office times.

Sudden Resignation

Sudden resignation, or epiphany quitting, occurs when employees abruptly leave their jobs after reevaluating their personal and professional fulfilment, often seeking better work-life balance.

Hidden Labour

Hidden labour, or ghost work, involves the unrecognised human effort behind AI and digital consumer experiences. This includes tasks like content moderation, proofreading, photo captioning, and data labelling for algorithms.

Task Fragmentation

Task fragmentation, or job atomisation, breaks down secure jobs into smaller, task-based segments that are outsourced to the gig economy, typically at a lower cost.

Personal Time Utilisation

Personal time utilisation, or leaveism, is when employees use their personal time off, such as flexitime, vacation days, or scheduled off days, to complete work they couldn’t finish during regular hours.

Gig Tasks

Gig tasks, or micro work/jobs, are small, task-based assignments performed by independent contractors via labour platforms. These tasks range from 15 minutes to a few hours and collectively form larger projects completed by multiple contractors.

Youth Disengagement

Youth disengagement, referred to as N.E.E.T (Not in Employment, Education, or Training), classifies young people who are not involved in these activities.

Insecure Workforce

The insecure workforce, or the precariat, consists of workers with unstable jobs and incomes who often lack benefits such as retirement funds or sick leave, relying only on immediate payment for their work.

Temporary Employment

Temporary employment, or survival jobs, are short-term, low-skilled, and low-paid positions taken to avoid financial hardship. These jobs are often unrelated to a worker’s professional background and are a last resort.

Employee Surveillance Perception

Employee surveillance perception, or surveillance reputations, reflects workers’ views on the extent of monitoring by their employers. Companies with extensive surveillance tend to have poor reputations among employees.

Work-Centric Life

A work-centric life, or total work, is when work becomes the central focus, overshadowing leisure and personal time. Individuals in this state perceive their main purpose in life as being to work, forgetting the balance of life before work dominated their existence.

Re-entering the Workforce

Re-entering the workforce, or unretirement, involves retirees or near-retirees returning to work due to economic needs, rising healthcare costs, increased life expectancy, or social isolation.

Work Ideology

Work ideology, or workism, is the belief that work is not only necessary for economic production but also the core of one’s identity and life purpose.

On-Call Employment

On-call employment, or zero-hour contracts, are agreements where employers do not guarantee a minimum number of working hours but require employees to be available for work as needed without a promise of consistent opportunities.

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