Office work is a charade like digital DJing

Paris Hilton pretending to DJ

I was recently at a winery on a beautifully sunny Sunday in Shoreham, Kent. After some wine tasting, I wandered up to a lovely outside bar area that had a DJ playing an eclectic mix of house tunes on what looked like an expensive bit of digital DJ kit.

While queuing I couldn’t help but watch what the DJ was doing; I have some interest as many years ago I dabbled with vinyl DJing: I was terrible! Beat-mixing and swapping out records is tricky but modern-day digital rigs do it all for you. Software such as Mixed In Key and Rekordbox will automatically put music in sync and save you from beat-matching. Moreover, by analysing the key it can even show you which tracks work together.

Anyway back to that sunny Sunday, while I was watching the DJ play around with nobs and looking at his laptop screen it occurred that he’s just pretending to be busy. Digital DJing is perfectly analogous to modern-day office work: because of technology, mostly pointless.

DJing used to be a skill

Not only was beat-mixing a skill with vinyl, so was finding original music. This normally involved traipsing around obscure record shops or importing rarities. Now, everything’s available online and can be downloaded in seconds. With barriers to entry removed you have the likes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian declaring themselves as DJs and securing lucrative gigs around the world. Big-name DJs miming sets (playing pre-recorded mixes) has become more prevalent with David Guetta being busted several times.

1-minute clip with funny (but accurate) annotations

Jobs (like DJs) used to be real

We don’t have nobs, switches or digital turntables in the office, however, we do have email, meetings and reports. Just as turning nobs and waving arms in the air make no difference to a DJ’s music-set; email, reports and meetings make no difference to a business’s productivity.

Much of today’s modern-day work is a game of politics and trying to look busy. The question that pops up is: would you rather be doing work pre-office in the early 20th century?

Examples being: factory worker, blacksmith, midwife, farm labourer, ice-cutter, lamplighter, switchboard operator etc. Some of these examples sound monotonous, however, it’s fair to say these jobs would have served a purpose. Just as Kasparov (the reigning world chess champion) didn’t want to admit defeat to a computer. It seems we’re doing the same by inventing work that doesn’t need doing instead of admitting defeat to technology.

“Capitalism creates unnecessary jobs in order for the wheels to merely keep on turning”

 David Graeber 

Your real job is shopping
Trailer from Adam Curtis’ excellent docu-film: Hypernormalisation
You go into an office and sit at a desk
but maybe it is a fake job, your real job
is shopping. The true factories of our
time are the shopping malls; that is
where the real work is done. You are
managed with performance targets and
measured outcomes but as you sit in the
glass walled offices you know that the
targets are manipulated and faked and
the managers know that you know but you
all sit there and pretend it is
objective and rational.

37% of British workers think their jobs are meaningless

YouGov (market research and data analytics firm) conducted a survey to try and understand how much of the British public believed their job was meaningless. 37% answered their job is meaningless and 13% “don’t know”. I’d argue your job is probably meaningless if you’re not sure! Doctors, nurses, teachers, police wo/men, road sweepers, van drivers, builders all know their job has a purpose.

Some interesting analysis from the survey data was: Londoners were the most likely regional grouping to say their jobs are unfulfilling (41%), while the Midlands and Wales have the highest levels of job fulfilment (67% fulfilled, 26% not). Maybe because London is mostly office work? Also, most people with meaningless jobs say it’s unlikely they will change jobs in the next 12 months (53%, compared to 35% who say they might change jobs). I suspect because they think the next job will be as equally pointless.

The Emporer has no clothes

Some think their job has meaning without realising it doesn’t, others haven’t thought about it and assume all jobs must serve a purpose. Lastly, there’s those that realise but don’t like to talk about it. Just as the little boy yelled out “But the Emperor has no clothes.” I often bring up the fact in the office by questioning the meaningless nature of our work; to say this is a taboo is an understatement. It’s like I’m giving the game away and should shut up otherwise we’re all get taken away.

It’s why many of us want Financial Independence

Perhaps those with Truman syndrome have got it right and we are part of a staged reality TV show, why else would these fake jobs exist? The pointless nature of office work is fundamentally soul-destroying.

There’s no quick fix and changing jobs won’t always be the solution, however, when you have an exit strategy then the pointless nature of your job becomes bearable. Financial Independence brings freedom to work on whatever excites you without the burden of financial pressure.

“In experiencing work as meaningful, we cease to be workers or employees and relate as human beings”

Professor Katie Bailey (employee engagement expert)

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