The Commission’s guest was the journalist, Richard Donkin, author of two books, Blood, Sweat and Tears – The Evolution of Work, and The Future of Work. Historical sweeps characterised the meeting: from the sharpening of flint tools in pre-human history (behold the origins of technology), the creation story of Genesis and the repeated emphasis that the product of it 'was good', the changing attitudes of younger people towards work, and the balance of power between employers and employees in the recession – all were reflected on.
A central theme was alterations in the meaning of work. Commissioners concurred there had been a notable change in perceptions of the meaning of work: work tended to be more 'whole person', more identity-rich, less 'hired hand', a simple transaction of time for money. But in becoming so, work appears to have lost its place as part of the rhythm of life and has began to take over more of it. What it is that is driving these changes was identified as a strand for the Commission to investigate further.
A prominent challenge to the concept of good work also surfaced: if it 'works' (as in serves the interests of workers and employers), why don’t more employers do it? There is no consistent measure of a concept such as good work and loosely related constructs in the same broad family (eg. 'job quality', 'engagement', 'satisfaction', 'high performance work organisation') all have intricate internal issues attached to them. Today’s work was saturated with scientific and technological advance and the people who do it tend to have higher skills and more education, but the culture may be suffering something of a 'Merlin deficit': lots of information and knowledge, not so much wisdom.