If you read almost any textbook (or Google) that touches on the history of work, it would probably begin with the cave people and their struggle for survival. They were hunter-gatherers, and later, small-time farmers, and if they weren’t successful, they died. Talk about job stress. (But at least they got to work at home and near their families, and feel like they were making a real impact, right?) They probably wouldn’t have considered what they did “work,” but this is where we’ll start.
A little farther down the timeline, money was created and factories and all of those stories about pre-child labor law Dickensian England and peasants and slaves. If you didn’t have money, you were put in jail. So, people worked in the deathtrap factories that were still preferable to jail. The point is that for a lot of people if you were lucky enough to have a job, work really sucked, and we’re confident in being able to pinpoint this time in history as the beginning of the Sunday Scaries. Sunday scaries are that sick feeling that people who hate their jobs get on Sunday evening.
***This is about to skip pretty far ahead. In the interim slavery was banned (woohoo!), and women entered the workforce, although we still have a lot to do to bring true equality to the workforce.
Now, our story moved from the Industrial Age to a technological one. The Information Age has arrived (like we said, we know we skipped over a bunch in the middle, but you’re skimming this anyway, so let’s call it even). The internet was invented, and Steve Jobs made it cool. If you invested in Apple early, good for you (and can we be friends?). If not, you’re still working like the rest of us. The Sunday Scaries are still around for many, and we even picked up Manic Mondays, but we can all agree we’re a lot better off than those 19th-century English suckers.
Work is no longer one size fits all, and it’s not all about work ethic either. Stories about pure hard work leading to extraordinary success and happiness that you might hear from every gray-haired guy in a suit doesn’t seem realistic anymore, do they? We’re at the tail-end of the Information Age, and we are faced with so many choices about our lives and careers (and some people have way more choices than others) and work is about to go through another evolution.
Yes, the gig economy is booming. Yes, some countries are experimenting with basic income. Yes, more than 50% of Gen Z sees themselves running their own business, and yes, automation will replace some people’s jobs. But none of that is THE next big thing.
We are entering the age of Happy Spectacular. (Right now you’re thinking this was a lot to read just for us to plug our own company at the end, but have faith, we do have a point). The point is: work isn’t just for our basic survival. We have gotten to the point where work can give our life meaning and purpose, not just a paycheck, so shouldn’t we do something extraordinary with it? The Happy Spectacular era is here to ensure that the great life everyone deserves isn’t hindered by the way work used to work.
Nora is a co-founder of Happy Spectacular, which she still can't really believe, and she's on a lifelong quest for the world's best cheeseburger (applicants accepted).