What is the Good Work Code?
Why was the Good Work Code created?
We realized that we are in a critical moment in the future of work.
In 2015 we were interviewing domestic workers about their experiences finding work through the gig economy, to learn about the impact the tech sector was having on our industry. We noticed consistent themes: unstable hours, low pay, not knowing how the app works, feeling isolated and disconnected.
We noticed that the issues workers were describing were not new, these were problems with work that existed long before work shifted online. While technology was able to solve some issues - such as aggregating labor markets and making some areas of work more efficient - there were many issues that had simply been shifted online.
We realized that we have an opportunity that comes ones in every few generations; as work is changing, we can shape what it becomes. If we don't intervene, the future of work will simply shift the inequities of the past into online work. Or, we could work to shape work as it changes, and make sure that the future of work solves for equity as well as efficiency.
What was missing was a north star, a framework that companies could use as a guide to creating good work. Because work is changing, but what constitutes good work remains the same. And without knowing what good work looks like, it's hard to plot a course there.
What is the problem?
We can't create good work if we don't know what it looks like.
There are two standards that companies look to when evaluating if their work is "good work". The first is the floor, defined by law: minimum pay, safety requirements, protection from discrimination. The other is the ceiling, set by companies flush with cash that are competing for a small labor pool: profit-sharing, free massages, kombucha on tap in the cafeteria.
Neither ensure good work.
Laws vary from state to state, and are impacted by what legislators can pass, not what is needed. And Silicon Valley's employee perks aren't scalable: most businesses simply cannot afford what Google and Facebook offer their employees.
Good work needs to be defined by what the workers need. Values that can be operationalized in a variety of ways to accommodate the workers and the business. Safety looks different when a worker is cleaning a private home compared to a corporate office, and Fair Pay looks different for an employee of a cleaning company in Wisconsin compared to an independent cleaner in Manhattan. But when a worker feels safe, and receives pay that is fair, it feels the same no matter where they work or what kind of work they do.
The Good Work Code defines what good work looks like, so that businesses can focus on how to operationalize it.
How does this affect domestic workers?
Domestic workers have rarely benefitted from labor standard floors (protected by law) or ceilings (employee perks).
Domestic workers were excluded from basic labor protections that were extended to almost all other workers in the National Labor Relations Act, domestic workers did not benefit from the labor standard floors, like minimum wage and overtime protection, that other workers benefitted from.
Neither have they benefitted from the ceilings other workers have enjoyed. Domestic work is poverty-wage work, and employers typically can't afford the perks that cash-flush employers in Silicon Valley can.
However, domestic work can - and should - be good work. Employers can work with domestic workers to ensure they feel each of the Good Work values are being expressed in a meaningful way, such as providing non-toxic cleaning products, communicating clearly about tasks that are required, scheduling check-in conversations to discuss any concerns that may have risen, and providing a bonus as a thank you when the employer receives a bonus, to say "thank you" for the work inside the house that makes the work outside the house possible.
If we can make domestic work Good Work, we can make all work Good Work.
What progress have we made?
We launched the Good Work Code at the Next:Economy conference in San Francisco, on November 13, 2015, and ten companies committed to operationalize the values of the code.
We have continuously been asked to speak to the media, and at conferences, about good work and the values of Good Work Code, including The New York Times, Al Jazeera, The New Republic, Yes! Magazine, CNN Money.
What have we learned?
Good work is simple.
No matter the kind of work you do, you know when it's good. You feel valued. You feel heard. You have some control. At the end of each day you feel like you contributed to something.
Operationalizing good work can be hard, especially as work changes and looks differently to work of the past, but the end goal is not complicated. It's fair, safe, flexible, stable. It's good work.
Some companies want to do the right thing, but don't know how.
A set of values is a helpful tool for companies who want to be providing good work. When it's clear what good work looks like, it is easier to focus on how to operationalize it.
What comes next?
It should be easier for workers and customers to identify companies who provide good work.
Want to help?
If you work for a company...