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Posted: 9/27/2010 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ]

What is Work?

Josh Sawislak
Senior Fellow
Telework Exchange

My father was a reporter for most of his life, and he always cautioned me not to "bury the lead." So let's start this (hopefully regular) conversation with a discussion of work.

What is work? Webster defines work as "a physical or mental activity we do for a specific purpose and to a specific end." While that might be true, it's rather dry and academic – doesn't get to the heart of what work truly means. Some people identify work as "the opposite of play." Also a true statement – but we shouldn't be forced to define something by what it is not. Workin' for a livin'? Yes, that's true Huey. Working 9 to 5? Not so much these days. A lot of people define work as where they go each morning. I think the term work denotes action. You have to actually do something in order to make work work. I would counter that work is what you do, not where you go to do it.

This is my first blog for Telework Exchange. It's not a blog as much as it is an open forum, a conversation really. I clearly don't have the perfect definition of work ? but maybe together we can get there. What's work to you? Pipe in with your thoughts. I'm starting this blog in a new position with Telework Exchange. However I'm neither new to telework nor am I new to work. I spent most of my career as a management consultant and program manager for large development and infrastructure efforts. For the last four years, I had the opportunity to see how the Federal government works from the inside. I saw a lot of sausage getting made and learned a lot about steering large organizations and agencies. I hope this space will not just be about what I think, but what we can all learn from each other.

Let's use this space to exchange ideas and vet issues. That's the genius of an open forum. In my Dad's day, he wrote a column that others read. More of a one-way street. If readers had a reaction to what he wrote, the only real way he heard them was if they felt strongly enough to write a letter to the editor. But even then, it wasn?t usually a conversation or an open exchange of ideas.

Before we open up the lines, let's set some ground rules. Rule number one is to please be polite (that's from Mom, not Dad). My colleague Steve O'Keeffe wrote a blog recently on the decline in manners online. Let's reverse that trend, and use this online forum as if we were sitting around a table freely discussing our thoughts and honestly sharing ideas. OK, rule number two is...nope, there is no rule two. Just the one, so it's easy to remember – be polite.

In future columns, I will cover issues affecting telework such as security, management and supervision, costs and benefits to employees and employers, lessons learned, and rights and responsibilities. Feel free to veer off the path to talk about something that's important to you. We'll ask each other questions and, together, we may find some answers we can all agree on. If nothing else, we'll spark discussion and help each others thinking along the way. Please jump in and join in the conversation.

Without your input, this blog will be just me telling you what I think. While my family might find that interesting (or just pretend to humor me), let's make this a conversation. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

To comment on this blog on the Telework Exchange site, visit


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