We’re About to Seriously Reconsider How We Define and Compensate “Work”

Some Tuesday Morning Work-Related Prognostication:

There’s a huge reckoning on the horizon regarding how we conceptualize and compensate work.

Traditionally, most people get paid on an hourly or salaried basis. You get $X dollars per hour of your presence “at work,” or you get $X dollars per pay period no matter how many hours you put in (there’s usually a required minimum but no maximum).

The pay-per-deliverable nature of gig work, however, is changing our view of work and pay. Nearly every worker these days has direct experience with some sort of “I completed X task for $Y which showed up in my PayPal/Venmo/etc. account almost immediately after I turned in X task.” Our understanding is now that pay can be much more granular and task-based, rather than connected to nebulous time periods or “performance” as defined by someone who also controls whether we get paid for that “performance.”

That’s already affecting how people approach work. Calls for on-demand access to pay are becoming A Thing. But implementing on-demand pay poses all kinds of hurdles, from “how do you make the payroll system do it” to “are we violating federal wage and hour rules if we say you’re an exempt salaried employee but release your pay on a per-hour or per-task basis?” to “if we tell you your tasks are X, Y, and Z and you complete them in three days and then play Minecraft for the last two, are you still a full-time employee for legal purposes or do we even need to care because both parties got what they agreed on?”

My cynical side wants to say this is another way technology will be used to oppress us. But I also see broader generational trends in our approach to work and our demands for human dignity, and I can’t make that call yet.

Anyway, this topic is going to trend in the next three years. I’d bet a granular blog post’s pay on it.

Raise my bet: Buy me a coffee.