This project is a speculative design project, involving working with Fuzzy Design Studio, The Royal Society of Medicine, to re-imagine our relationship with work for women.
In today's society, more and more women are engaged in a variety of productive activities, having jobs in society and participating in outside activities. On the other hand, women still bear the majority of housework and childcare. This is due to the underlying social norm that women are supposed to take care of household chores and childcare, and that these tasks are considered similar to service and are not recognized as work. However, balancing work at home with work at the workplace has become a source of concern for many women, and is linked to pain points that prevent them from realizing their expectations. What is the work in the first place? Is it right that work at the workplace and work in the home are divided and perceived as separate? We focused on the fact that the values created in housework and childcare are not considered to have created any economic value, and made a what-if statement, "What if invisible value, the value created outside of the workplace that is not currently measured, is valued economically?
Under this statement, we created an inclusive and well-being friendly future working scenario in 2040 by making the value created at home visible and getting paid by Invisible Value Income Program (I.V.I Program). I.V.I Program is a social policy in which the government recognises and pays for the invisible value that people created outside the workplace. Invisible Value Income allows working parents to achieve their goals at home and work, without having to choose one over the other. It will also have an impact at the individual, family, workplace, and societal levels, and these impacts will be interconnected, leading to changes in the norms and systems of society as a whole (see Project Detail for details).
In 2040, individuals, families, workplaces, and societies will be less fragmented and more flatly connected. The visualization of value produced and sacrifices made will highlight the value and challenges of the individual outside the workplace. From there, mutual understanding will be fostered, leading to the correction of distortions in the existing social system and the building of a better future for many.
We hope our project starts a conversation and inspires action that can be taken today.
SIGNALS - HOW WILL WOMEN'S FUTURES LOOK?
Due to technological progress and the diversification of values in society, women's lifestyles have become more diverse, and there are many options for their future. Several new progressive government policies aim to empower individuals and promote gender equality. At the company level, attention is also being paid to innovative strategies that cater to employees' unique needs. At the individual level, people around the world are campaigning for equality. All these signals point to a possible future where the government, companies and people are sensitive to individual differences and strive for an inclusive society.
VOICE - WHAT ARE WOMEN SAYING?
We have conducted 26 in-depth interviews and received 53 questionnaire responses from working females worldwide who work across different industries, including healthcare, consultancies, public service, and more. In total, this involved 83 participants, including 4 wellbeing specialists; to understand what causes them stress, how concerned they are about their mental health and the ideal image of their future work and life. It is interesting to note that although they are in different countries and industries, the challenges they faced, their expectations and visions for the future were similar.
INSIGHTS - WHAT ARE THE REAL PROBLEM?
Their expectation for the future can be summarised as the expectations of private life and expectations of the external workplace. It has six key expectations such as Flexibility, Power, Inclusion, Independence, Self-progress and Support. Fulfilling these expectations leads us to an ideal scenario where women have freedom at work and have a sense of self-achievement in their life.
But, what are the things that prevent them from realizing these six expectations? We focused our thoughts on working women, especially working mothers and found out they have these pain points.
A. Inequality between the partners at housework and child care
B. Sacrifices of own career development for family
C. Devaluation of working mom by the workplace
As our research progressed, we also found that these pain points were the result of problems in social norms and social systems. This means that care tasks such as housework and childcare are deeply rooted in the framework of "social norms" - norms and practices that are accepted and taken for granted in daily family life.
The problem here is that the concept of "care" is not always associated with "work". Care is often seen as an act of altruism, selflessness, or self-sacrifice for the family. Care is also associated with the gendered division of labour, with women's work. In mainstream economics and public perception, "work" is understood as an activity that brings in monetary income, for example, "having a job" or "finding/being hired for a job.
Therefore, it is necessary to question the social, economic, and political factors underlying the seemingly "natural" division of labour in the home, and to consider why these care tasks are not associated with economic value.
OUR BRIEF - WHAT IF INVISIBLE VALUE COULD BE EVALUATED ECONOMICALLY IN 2040?
Working mothers do most of the housework and childcare without pay. But isn't it strange that the value created in the home is not valued by economic value indicators? Why is this invisible value not being paid for? In order to throw a wrench into these social norms, we asked ourselves, "What if the value created outside of work, the invisible value that is not currently measured by any index, could be valued economically? This is the question we asked ourselves. How would individuals, families, workplaces, and societies change if these household and childcare care tasks were to generate economic value?
SOLUTION - INVISIBLE VALUE INCOME PROGRAM
I.V.I Program is a social policy in which the government recognises and pays for the invisible value being contributed by people outside of their work. The "Sensei" digital platform will automatically record people's daily work contribution and generate visual outputs and the income they are entitled to. The platform will measure the physical condition of its users by collecting G.P. activities. The psychological state is monitored by the platform's regular mood checks. It will generate users' predictions and suggestions about their future workload distribution based on the state of their wellbeing. The platform helps users plan their future expectations with relevant stakeholders. It allows users to understand the impact of their choices and helps them make the necessary decisions to reach their goals. By visualising and compensating the contribution at home, the de-stigmatisation of conversations among colleagues around family issues would create a more empathetic working environment.
IMPACT - WHAT WE EXPECT
Through this program, we expect impacts will be brought as follows.
On an individual level, it provides the flexibility to achieve a work-life balance and promotes understanding and empathy among colleagues in the workplace by creating open conversations about the challenges faced by each family. This will create psychological safety in the workplace and individuals will find it easier to consider long-term career development.
Families will have the opportunity to deepen their mutual understanding by learning about the value that each of them creates, which was previously invisible. In addition, because the economic value is attached to the value created in the home, people will be able to make freer and fairer choices without being bound by gender, values, or the rules of the existing social system.
For companies, the program promotes a gender-neutral work culture and allows for tailor-made work schedules for employees based on the program's data. This will strengthen the bond between employees and the company and lead to greater long-term corporate competitiveness.
Society will be able to understand more people's cases through the program, realize that a society built on the sacrifice of a few is not sustainable, and take steps to pursue a new way of society.
TAKEAWAY - VALIDATION AND WORKSHOP
We put our I.V.I. program concept through nine in-depth validation sessions (It included working women, working fathers, company management and HR) and an external workshop organised by our client, i.e. Fuzzy Studio. Through the validation sessions, many participants resonated with and saw the value and concern behind the I.V.I program. We learnt: At the company level, give users the ability to grant their employer partial access to program data. "The idea of being able to measure how your time is used and the flexibility of time would be brilliant as an HR tool". For individuals, providing a trust-based service and visualisations of invisible value can create conversations at home and at the workplace. "The platform might encourage the partner to also participate in domestic work". We hope our project starts a conversation and inspires action that can be taken today.