about the project
In 2021, almost forty-eight million people quit their jobs in a major cultural phenomenon deemed “The Great Resignation”. Economists, politicians, and sociologists have offered many explanations for why this shift occurred. One such explanation is that the COVID-19 pandemic and massive shifts in workplace culture have made workers realize they want different things out of their jobs. This research project seeks to explore that shift through extended first-person interviews with workers themselves, aimed at deepening our collective understanding of why people work, what they work for, and what place they want work to hold in their lives.
However, finding and collecting honest and critical dialogue about work can be challenging because of the constantly overhanging social discourse around productivity, value, and identity that impact how we see and think about work. Work, as an experience and as an ideology, is everywhere. As one participant put it:
“America has an obsession with work. When you meet someone for the first time, you always ask what they do. And when you’re eating your food, you’re working on your food. You even see, I’m working on myself, whatever that means. It’s everywhere.”
This project’s goal is to facilitate honest and critical dialogue about work by allowing individuals to think about what they want out of work without fear of repercussion or the pressures of face to face communication. The website centers around the analysis of fifteen interviews I held with graduating college seniors and current workers. These pages will guide you through these interviews, which serve as a starting point for visitors to share and contemplate their own experiences and opinions.
The project hopes to bring three things to visitors. The first is a different way to look at work. Visitors can examine and consider responses that they might not have thought of before, while also offering their own opinions and experiences. The second thing is to allow anonymous connection in order to facilitate safe and productive discourse. Meaning, all responses are anonymous, and there is no option to respond to other’s posts. This isn’t to shut down discussion, but to allow for healthy dialogue without the threat of retaliation or argument, allowing people to give casual, unrestricted, and honest advice. Read more about anonymity below. And lastly, this website offers a curated list of resources that I’ve found relevant to workers in terms of legal help, mental health, and assistance for the job search.
Thank you for visiting the website. I hope you find what you’re looking for, or share it yourself!
On sustainable work
What is sustainable work?
When visiting the website, you might wonder, what do you mean by sustainable work?
We’ve seen how work burns people out. From overwork to a lack of fulfillment; work is rarely sustainable. Having fun in life shouldn’t be saved for retirement. We should be able to enjoy our lives throughout the time we are working, and our time when we aren’t! This research project wants to explore how we can grow and sustain a healthy relationship with work.
Sustainable work is healthy, happy, and fulfilling work. Sustainable work is motivating, fulfilling, engaging, fair, and economically equitable. Sustainable work is about what people want out of work and their lives outside of work.
Sustainable work isn’t going to be the same for everyone, but I hope this research project helps you think a little bit deeper about what that means to you.
So this project isn’t necessarily about environmental sustainability, but having a healthy and happy workplace is a great first step towards that too.
on different types of work
This project originally centered around white-collar office jobs. I centered the study around white-collar work because it seemed like a new frontier of worker exploitation. Although such jobs are often presented as ideal or upper class jobs, I found that most white-collar workers I spoke with had not thought deeply about how their beliefs or societal discourse around work had shaped their professional choices and experiences. While there is a great deal of research on workers’ rights in blue-collar work, there was significantly less literature about the nature of white-collar work and its effect on workers. My project was originally conceived of as a way to more deeply explore white-collar professional cultures. However, throughout the course of my research, I found that many of the things interviewees said applied to all forms of work. So to not limit this project’s audience or utility, I began to incorporate all forms of work into my research. So in the end, this website is about all work, from blue-collar to white-collar (though the bulk of the interviews focus on people who hold or are preparing to hold white-collar jobs). Everyone is welcome to respond, and I hope that as more people respond, this website’s utility expands even further to include all types of work.
The first phase of this research was done through twenty-four interviews with experts, workers, and prospective workers on the work experience.
- I first had nine exploratory interviews with experts and workers to see what would be most beneficial and interesting to learn about in regards to work culture and the job search.
- I then had eight interviews with prospective workers, and then seven interviews with current workers, to see what both wanted out of work. The interviews were roughly thirty minutes to an hour, and covered a variety of topics, ranging from “What are the important aspects of a good job?” to “How do you manage your work life balance?”.
- While the responses to these questions (and many more!) have been synthesized on this website, you can download the interview questions for workers here and the questions for prospective workers here to learn more.
- After the interviews, I coded and analyzed the transcripts for common themes or ways to organize their responses on the website. And lastly, I added the results to this website. (I am by no means a website designer, but I did my best…) This whole process happened over the 2021-2022 academic year.
But that was just the first phase of my research. My research centers around accessibility and community centered data collection, so your responses and engagement with my website are the second phase of this research. Your contributions continue to add to my data and research, and also to broader discussion! Thank you in advance 🙂
On the interviewees
These are the demographics of the interviewee pool. I include these for transparency. Everyone’s work experience is different, and this group of interviewees are far from representative of all American workers.
There are a range of perspectives included in my research, but they are far from comprehensive. This likely influenced the results, and the data/quotes collected. However, I encourage everyone to contribute to this website, and hopefully as it grows, the responses can become more representative of the American workforce.
15 PEOPLE TOTAL
eight prospective workers
six female identifying
eight male identifying
one gender non-binary identifying
fifteen graduated or will graduate college
- Humanities/Social Science: 4
- STEM: 3
- Public Health / Natural Sciences: 4
- Business: 4
six will be paying / have paid student debt after college
Why anonymity? Why limit responses?
Firstly, with anonymity, the subtext is, “It’s not safe to share your views openly.” And unfortunately, that’s true. Things posted on the internet, particularly in regards to work, often come back to bite us in professional or occupational contexts. (See cybervetting.) And while that’s not ideal, it’s just how the internet works. Especially when talking about work, salary, and workplace culture, it may not always be safe (or wise) to share your opinion openly. This anonymous space allows for people to share their views without threat of retaliation or judgment. Please utilize this resource with respect and intellectual humility. All submitted responses will be examined for relevance and civility, as well as filtered for hate speech, excessive profanity, or disrespectful behavior.
Secondly, you aren’t allowed to respond to other’s posts. This isn’t to shut down discussion, but to promote an environment where people aren’t drawn to argument. I’m sure you’ve seen on social media the way people tear others down over differences in opinion and experience. The lack of respondability on the website is to hopefully avoid that, so it can become a space where people can share their experience freely, without fear of conflict. If you see something that offends you, you can report it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll take a look. But I encourage you to read the responses with an open mind, and reflect on perspectives that are different from your own; maybe that can tell you something about your own beliefs!
If you have any questions, or want to talk more about anonymity and responsibility, you can find where to contact me here.
I chose birds as the central aesthetic of my website for two reasons.
The first is that I selected it as a theme to see how it looked, and now I don’t know how to change it.
However, when you think about it, birds represent flexibility and freedom, both of which I found to be desirable in work and in life and in general. Birds also migrate throughout their lives, just as workers migrate and navigate through careers and jobs.
My hope is that the birds make this website more visually enjoyable and also inspire you to find freedom and flexibility in your own lives and career paths.