Society Tells Us To Strive Towards the Corporate Model…But Is It Really Worth It?
“Think of all the opportunities at your feet if you went to university” — wise choice of words from my Mum when I was considering what to do with my next step. I was 17 at the time, spotty-faced and angst-ridden about what my idea of fulfilling work looked like.
Of course, I did go to university and had a fabulous time. I made lifelong friends, excelled in my History course and lived an independent and freeing period away from home. The only condition was: university never seduced me into the corporate and 9–5 world of work. I always knew I wanted to be a writer and campaigner for social justice but, sadly, this isn’t what success looks like to the majority. If you’re not suited and booted whilst fetching coffee for your ignorant boss then what a haphazard work life you should expect. Thankfully, I’m happy to refuse the status quo on this subject, and here’s why.
The office environment does not allow anyone to be bold, decisive or creative. Work as we know it is solely designed to pay our exorbitant rent and keep us somewhat afloat. Most of us begrudgingly accept the norm of the 9–5 whilst ignoring the fact we do not function in the mornings or that we have a wealth of creativity in our brain that we repress. We admit defeat so our relatives can boast about how we work in high-rise buildings alongside those who attended elite schools. My passion for writing and solving the world’s injustices remains ubiquitous in my brain, whether I’m sat in the office or not, and I know I will never be fully content until I take the plunge.
Society perceives work through a meritocratic lens. The most intelligent and wealthy can succeed in the corporate circle whilst their impoverished counterparts ostracised from the social mobility ladder will not. We have precarious employment filled with delivery drivers, couriers, hospitality staff and cleaners who do the most invaluable tasks but are considered irrelevant. We have the contentious issue of the gender pay gap; women doing double to men but still thought as unequal to be paid the same. Moreover, we are witness to stagnating wages that see us working tirelessly whilst scraping the barrel to pay our bills.
Alas, they say, the office work environment should be upheld and without it the meritocracy will fall. I’ve recently joined the office after a period working in retail, writing for publications pro bono and figuring out what I really wanted from the workplace. I’ve quickly realised that it isn’t for me. I am unable to thrive like I hoped and I would happily relinquish the social aspect of the office for a more prosperous opportunity.
My thoughts are in no way a public rebuke of my co-workers or office-squatters. Some immerse themselves fully into the daily grind, navigating office politics and responding to despairing emails blithely and without a mutter of disquiet. Those who champion the age-old workplace should be celebrated. The celebratory branch does not extend though to the Goldman Sachs CEO who expressed a virulent opinion of home-based working whilst the world recovered from a global pandemic. His words seeped into the public discourse with heavy criticism when we all know no-one should condone the office to that level.
My answer to the world’s work-life injustice is to instead laud the frontline workers; the hospitality, healthcare and retail staff who do god’s work for the most unscrupulous client. Imagine a world where those who save lives, feed us and keep us safe are the ones we venerate. The pandemic has revealed the harsh realities of key workers and their daily lives, but this most probably will be a temporary focus that is forgotten when the world is prepared to resume normality.
For those living the 9–5 norm, I yearn for a viral TED Talk to explain what the world has to offer and the plethora of creative opportunities we have at our fingertips. Work doesn’t have to be corporatist, nor does it mean we have to denigrate those who don’t fit the “mould”.
Work shouldn’t be considered inadmissible if it fails to fit into the societal structure. Creative types will rue the day they stick to the office and typify the corporatisation of our unequal world. Another world of work is possible, but those willing to go against the grain are the only ones who will see it.