Playlist TEDTalks

7 talks about work to watch on Labor Day

Work comes in all shapes and sizes — there’s no one-size-fits-all model for what humans do to make a living. We can see this in the countless TEDTalks from people telling stories about what they do, be it single-handedly creating a polyphonic orchestra, performing magical stunts on city streets, or even studying fungi. While we aren’t all glamourous actors or pioneers of the internet, all of our work is noble and worth celebrating. To commemorate Labor Day, here are seven great TEDTalks that explore the dynamics of work from all angles.

Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work

It’s commonly assumed that success will lead to happiness. But in the talk above, positive psychologist Shawn Achor argues the exact opposite: it’s happiness that leads to success. Happier people are more creative, have increased energy, and perform at a higher level — all of the factors needed in being successful. And, he tells us, we are all capable of making ourselves happier through small changes in our everyday lives.

Jason Fried: Why work doesn’t happen at work
“We’ve traded our work day in for work moments,” Jason Fried tells us in a talk from TEDxMidwest about the challenge of being truly productive in an office environment. We are faced with a barrage of involuntary distractions: between meetings and check-ins with managers, our truly productive time is broken down into 15-minute blocks — hardly enough time for creative brekathroughs. Fried offers provocative suggestions for making work a place where you can once again work.

Auret van Heerden: Making global labor fair
Transnational companies are growing at an alarming rate, but regulation of the good these companies produce as well as the treatment of their workers is lacking, argues Aret van Heerden, head of the Fair Labor Association. He is working to make a space for international collaboration and regulation to address these issues of human rights and quality control. In this insightful talk, van Heerden makes the case for why fair global labor practices are better for us all.

Nigel Marsh: How to make work-life balance work
Author Nigel Marsh reminds us that we need to proactively take our work-life balance into our own hands and stop waiting for our employers to do it for us. Small changes can dramatically improve the quality of your life and the relationships in it. And the more of us who do it, the better it is for society. Together, we can reshape society’s conception of a life well lived.

Mike Rowe: Learning from dirty jobs
Mike Rowe makes a living by telling stories about other people’s jobs. From sheep herders to dairy farmers to crab fishermen, Rowe has explored a wide range of professions, and had some outrageous experiences along the way as the host of “Dirty Jobs.” In this outlandish talk, Rowe tells us about his humbling experiences learning from professionals in the craziest jobs.

Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders
Women are not making it to the top of professional ladders anywhere in the world, a fact that deeply concerns Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. In this talk from TEDWomen, she explores the possible causes of this disparity — and what women can do about it.

Niels Diffrient rethinks the way we sit down
Ergonomic designer Neils Diffrient has devoted his life to designing the most comfortable office chairs possible. With human bodies driving his furniture modelings, Diffrient has helped redefine the way we sit in the during the workday.