Fractured Atlas believes in being honest about what a job is, but not fatalistic. Your job is not your family, it’s a way you exchange your labor for money. But it doesn’t have to be soul-crushing or toxic. We are interested in creating humane workplaces, whether that means ensuring fair pay as part of antiracism at work or exploring exactly what we mean when we talk about toxic workplaces.
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The past few years have given us collectively a great deal to think about in terms of problems with our workplace cultures. Big unionization drives across sectors have gotten us to think about exploitative workplace conditions, the mass shift to remote work and the haphazard move to hybrid work have encouraged us to think about communication norms and boundaries, the George Floyd uprisings showed in new relief how racism and white supremacy show up in our workplaces.
The word “toxic” has been having a big few years. It was chosen as the Oxford Word of the Year in 2018 and, honestly, it’s still going strong. It is applicable to personal relationships, environmental collapse, and, of course, workplaces. With the fallout from COVID, the rapid shift to remote working, and an unsteady implementation of hybrid working, everyone is thinking about their workplaces more and more. Are they especially brutal? Are they supportive? Do they let us live dignified lives? One framework for thinking through particularly bad workplaces is the concept of a toxic workplace. But what does that phrase really mean? And why does it matter to define it carefully?
During the height of the pandemic, we saw exhortations to support frontline workers, to tip extravagantly, to be kind to the person providing phone support, and to remember that the person working behind the counter or on the delivery truck is potentially risking their life to get you what you are looking for. There was at least some understanding that the customer-facing workers are the people who actually keep the wheels running of our society.
The return of office life is on the horizon. For many, it’s already here. But it won’t be the way that it was in February 2020. As we reopen, many workplaces will be using a hybrid model between in-person office working and remote working. They will be doing this to reopen offices gradually and because the past year and a half have shown many of us that we can work from anywhere and that not commuting to an office has a number of benefits (not least of all getting our commuting time back).
At times, creative practices - the work of research, ideating, building, and crafting artwork - can feel at odds with the flow of capitalism that dictates that you always do more, go faster, and think about yourself in isolation. In this world of speed, money, and individualism at the forefront, what does it mean to slow down and think intentionally about where artists and the economic ecosystem generated by the arts industry fit in within the greater world? “Solidarity Not Charity - Arts & Culture Grantmaking in the Solidarity Economy: A Rapid Report” written by Nati Linares and Caroline Woolard presents one answer to this inquiry. This report covers how artists and culture bearers fit into the larger solidarity economy that is growing; organizations, individuals, and collectives who are transforming how we think about funding and wealth building; and numerous actions we can take to educate ourselves and enact change.
Universal basic income, or UBI, can be a bit shocking when you first hear about it. It’s the proposition that residents of a place receive recurring payments without any kind of means testing. This means that they don’t have to “deserve” UBI payments by dint of their current employment status or salary, their number of dependents, housing situation, sobriety, or participation in municipal programs. It is no-strings-attached money that recipients can use however they like.
Erin Washington thinks a lot about lineages as a descendant and as a future ancestor. As an artist and educator based in Atlanta, Erin recognizes her relatives who participated in the Montgomery bus boycott and supported her creative ambitions by taking her to auditions. She also recognizes her spiritual, creative ancestors like Audre Lorde who paved the way for later generations of Black artists and thinkers.
At Fractured Atlas, we think a lot about the structures that govern our interactions with one another; the structures that determine who gets decision-making power in a group, and who is accountable to whom.