Story by Cathy Grant

 

So, last week a staff read to me a CBC article.

At its heart the article was about the new levels of automation that are affecting and going to affect many Canadian businesses within the next ten years.

The part the interested both me and my staff was around the various responses that this next evolution (some call it revolution but that word is so overused that the two are starting to mean the same thing) in work.

The most optimistic response was the old chestnut about a shorter work week. That instead of the 40 to 50 hours that everyone is now working it could be cut by more than half to around 15 to 20.

The article then went on to suggest that the new status symbol in this ‘worker’s paradise’ would paradoxically be: how busy you were.

 

It was this concept of being busy as a status symbol that caught my attention.

First off, I think that being busy is already being used as a status symbol. How many conversations have you been in that at some point someone talks about how busy they are.

Which in turn veers the conversation that way for at least half an hour or so as everyone starts telling fish stories (i.e. they grow larger and larger each time the tale is told) about their lack of time to do anything.

Now I know many people are busy and that the work/life balance can get out of whack. But I also believe that a lot of people are exaggerating just how busy they really are; they want the social recognition that comes with suffering from a problem that everyone can to relate to.

 

What does that mean for people with disabilities? Well for starters I think that finding enough to do to stay busy has always been a major challenge for people with disabilities (I know it has been a major struggle for me at least).

Keeping busy doing something worthwhile has long been considered one of the most effective means preventing depression and providing for a high quality of life. Therefore, for many disabled people this is more than just about a social pecking order: it’s about our overall health.

So, what happens when suddenly millions of people need to find more things to do that aren’t work related? What always happens: people with disabilities will be pushed out of our volunteer jobs, our places on boards, and whatever else we’ve fought for to provide meaning in our lives to make roomed for the ‘enabled’ volunteers.

 

I hope I’m wrong about this, and that the big adjustments that automation are going to cause aren’t going to be as disruptive as I fear.

But I do expect that people with disabilities need to get ready for a whole lot more competition when it comes to what they have available to keep busy in the very near future.