Man is a being in space and time. The total grip on the whole human being grasps him in his existence, in his spatiality and temporality. With simultaneous comprehensive blurred boundaries, hyper‐inclusion and self‐optimisation, support and orientation in space and time dwindle. The human being sinks into insignificance. Organisations now promise to provide support and meaning. The human being relieves himself of the obligation to create his own life; he finds no answers of his own to the questions of life and – falls into the mountain‐free.
Dissolution of space and time: blurred boundaries and hyper‐inclusion
The world of work has changed dramatically in the last twenty years. Above all, the revolutionary change in the temporal and spatial structures of employment is characterised by the blurring of boundaries between the two – traditionally separate – spheres of »work« (job, workplace, work environment, tasks, etc.) and »private« (place of residence, home, family, leisure, sport, volunteering, etc.).
This is evident in everyday working life: boundaries between actual working time and rest breaks become blurred, breaks become shorter and more segmented, the agreed working time is often not adhered to. Overtime is taken for granted, and often not even remunerated. Workplaces are splitting up, e. g. workplaces at the company headquarters, mobile working on the road, home office. Working environments are no longer found only at the workplace, but increasingly virtually, digitally at a distance: teams are formed not only at the place of the organisation, but online. A typical working day has long since ceased to be expressed in the familiar »nine‐to‐five«; thanks to digital possibilities, it is also feasible to complete tasks in the evening, from home. A typical, traditional long weekend also characterises the end of the working week less and less. On the contrary, for many, the new working week already begins on Sunday evening: to get ahead of the wave of the new week’s workload, unfinished or new tasks are dealt with in the home office.
Responsible for the blurring of spatial and temporal boundaries are globally operating companies and organisations; various forms of outsourcing; flexibilization and rationalisation processes – with the aim of expanding access to the working person, especially to his or her temporal and spatial availability.
A special challenge is posed by modern organisational cultures that are considered particularly innovative and cooperative. Especially through new forms of work such as »crowdworking« and »coworking«, collegial togetherness is overemphasised; creative teamwork is the paradigm, with a simultaneous attempt to push independent and self‐reliant working. Typical of many team development processes are methods that rely on the individual employee also showing his or her private side (starting with getting‐to‐know‐you rounds, through role‐playing to psychological self‐assessments and assessments by others that are carried out in front of the group of colleagues – in other words, methods that actually serve self‐awareness). The sense of togetherness, »we‐feeling«, formally created in such processes does not ask about individual interest or need but takes the individual employee into unwanted collective duty. Flat hierarchies, in turn, lead to the now private‐seeming interaction with peer colleagues becoming increasingly problematic in the context of work.
This is also reflected in everyday private life: the blurring of boundaries certainly offers an opportunity for a better reconciliation of family and work, for example, because a self‐determined flexibility is possible, especially through home office. But the sphere of work crosses the border to the private sphere, work intrudes into the private. This puts a lot of strain on people, especially when families are involved. The pressure has increased to subordinate the private sphere to the demands of work. The professional task takes precedence over all other areas of life. The current crisis, which has led to a gigantic increase in distance work via home office (»mobile work«, regularly investigated by the reports of the DGB index »Good Work«), is also having a great effect in blurring the boundaries between private life and the world of work, between leisure time and working time. In times of mobile working in the face of the pandemic, excessive demands and overload can be observed in many places. (For many single parents and families, the sphere of education and care is now intruding into private everyday life alongside the sphere of work: Home office and home schooling ensure that several spheres of life, which actually want to be separate from each other, are now jostling within the confines of one’s own home).
Work‐life blending, the mixing of the two spheres »work« and »private«, leads to constant border crossings. The usual boundaries increasingly dissolve, insecurities increase. This is accompanied by fatigue and exhaustion, burn‐out or being rushed, resignation. Many seek a way out of this dilemma in self‐optimisation through training, coaching, self‐awareness and self‐reflection, feedback, intervision, supervision – but also through meditation, sport, yoga, or other self‐referential activities.
Another extreme form of blurred boundaries is hyper‐inclusion. People are so integrated into a single organisation that the person’s entire way of life is completely oriented towards it. Participation in other life contexts or social spheres becomes increasingly impossible. This can lead to an inability to free oneself voluntarily from hyper‐inclusion.
In »The Fear of Insignificance: Searching for Meaning in the Twenty‐first Century« (2011), Carlo Strenger reports on a somewhat different form of blurred boundaries: globalisation influences the individual psyche, culture, and politics. All the social forms of the internet (especially social media) shape all generations that grow up with it. The influence is mainly through rankings and networks (»likes«, »friends« and »followers«). Strenger speaks of »Homo Globalis«, a new mutation of humanity defined by the intensive relationship to the infotainment network (»information society«). He demonstrates in clinical studies that »Homo Globalis« is not only increasingly disoriented, but also finds it significantly more difficult to develop a stable self‐esteem and consequently suffers from an increased fear of insignificance.
What can be observed in terms of blurred boundaries, hyper‐inclusion and self‐optimisation of modern man must be cause for concern. In terms of blurred boundaries alone, the study »Digitalisation/Work 4.0« (2017) by the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg states: »More than 40 percent of the working population perceives the blurring of boundaries as having progressed to such an extent that they can no longer identify a boundary.« – The concern increases, however, when one considers the addendum to this finding: »The phenomenon of blurring borders evokes quite different reactions among the population. Few see it negatively; the broad masses are inconclusive about what to make of it.« – This may be since blurring borders is a phenomenon of liquefaction, i. e. it is a gradual process rather than an eruption. And at the same time, many people are not able to take a stand.