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Work Hard, Play Hard

Filmmaker : Carmen Losmann Germany, 2011 PRODUCTION : Hupe FIlm
91'
German English, French

About this film

Synopsis

Work Hard, Play Hard is a documentary about modern management methods and the redesign of work spaces. To all apparences, teleworking, open spaces and flexible work hours are leading to more flexibility, always with an eye toward greater productivity. The corporation human resources and the architects who design the office buildings are optimistic. Offices now look like comfortable hotel lobbies. The human being at work is thus in the matrix of a total work world.

Tënk's opinion

We are witnessing the creation of a work apparatus. Management is perceived reflexively; we see how the artisans of an architectural firm work, or how the heads of the cruelly named “human resources” department organize the professional lives of enormous multi-national corporations. The rule of thumb? Construct a building and administer teams that will take inspiration from established key words: dynamism, vitality, joy, creativity, team spirit, effectiveness, improvement and speed. You must make workers forget that they are working, make their workspace as familiar as their kitchens…

Everything is built to foster social interaction, because management theories prove that 80% of creativity in business contexts comes from chance encounters, informal discussions, ideas that are snatched out of thin air when rounding the corner from an insignificant exchange. Every square foot, the designer tells us, must reflect this wishful thinking: make the workplace nicer, foster creativity, meld it into nature.

The cognitive dissonance is all-encompassing. It might as well be a Magritte painting whose words are superimposed over images that bear no relation to the vocabulary. What about nature? This place is colder than a mall, life is struggling to reassert itself, we’re becoming plastic figurines in a maquette, pixels in a digital blueprint. This place echoes with the schizophrenic directive to be more spontaneous ! Teamwork is coerced while feigning non-compulsory status. Informal dynamics we’re told to incite are quartered in real time by oppressive performance statistics. The most trivial of operations is conceptualized in a quasi-liturgical argot.

One more symbol of this worldwide institutional perversion? Managerial English vocabulary abounds. The words “team”, “culture”, “spirit”, are all necessarily employed in English among a German-speaking staff, because pseudo-intimacy is best delivered in a foreign language. This is emblematic of what professional life has become: no longer services rendered by a reasonably well-paid proletariat renting out their abilities amidst an alienated workforce, but an ethos that they agree to adopt and develop full-bore, trading their full personhood for capital.

Management makes sure to organize inquisitorial sessions, specifically “intrusive.” The goal is literally to remote-control the worker’s brain. Employees feel that work is “just like home” because nothing feels like home. Some firms deny them their own workspace, requiring them to continuously reserve temporary spaces in the building, causing them to lose their moorings. These different workspaces all “look alike” and all “make you think” of what they aren’t: your kitchen at home, your living room, an intimate workspace where you can concentrate, a café where we get brief tasks out of the way…the illusion is complete. “Viel Spaß!” the greeter at one of these businesses says to visitors she is welcoming inside for their appointments. “Have fun!”

Alain Deneault
Philosopher

Filmmaker

Carmen Losmann

The German filmmaker Carmen Losmann was born in 1978. After three years of study in Cologne and England (Bachelor of Arts Marketing), she joined the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne and graduated with a diploma in film. Her first film, the feature-length documentary Work Hard, Play Hard (2011), deals with the effects of modern human resources management and has been awarded numerous prizes, including the prestigious German Grimme Prize 2014. She received the Gerd Ruge Project Scholarship for the documentary Oeconomia (2020). Carmen Losmann lives and works in Cologne and Templin.