Automation was always supposed to take care of the tedious jobs, so we could enjoy more leisure time. In reality, it’s taken paid work away from humans, while also increasing their burden of shadow work, by transferring tasks from employees to consumers.








Link to the latest Guardian news story about work, productivity and leisure: Why do we feel so busy?.


  • serfdom – the state of being a serf or feudal labourer
  • to dawn on sm – if something dawns on you, you realize it for the first time
  • groceries – items of food sold in a grocery or supermarket
  • dispatcher – a person whose job is to receive messages and organize the movement of people or vehicles
  • to wander – walk or move in a leisurely or aimless way
  • on behalf of sm for someone’s benefit or representing someone

Watch and listen

Answer the questions below.

  • What does Craig compare “shadow work” to? (00:50)
  • When did Craig get his idea? (00:30)
  • What example does he give of an entry-level minimum wage job? (01:00)
  • Give 3 other examples of shadow work jobs we now do ourselves? (01:30)
  • Who does shadow work ultimately benefit? (02:45)


Practice Makes Perfect


Fill in the blanks with the correct modal verb. Go to: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/oct/12/shadow-work-automation-tedious-jobs-oliver-burkeman to find out more.

  1. I accept that I ____ be able to protect my son indefinitely from the horrors of our era.
  2. Anyway, they ____ probably have made me go and fetch it from the depot myself.
  3. It’s nothing new: housework and child-rearing are both major cases of shadow work, since paid work ____ be impossible without them.
  4.  This ____ help to explain the puzzling fact that we feel so much busier these days, despite not working longer hours.
  5. It’s ironic, Lambert notes, that technology ____ bear so much blame for this.
  6. Automation was always supposed to take care of the tedious jobs, so we ____ enjoy more leisure time.
  7. There ____ be benefits to shadow work – saved time, increased autonomy – but as Lambert points out, one huge downside is that it’s socially isolating.
  8. That’s obvious in the case of the elderly person who ____ struggle to book a trip online or collect train tickets from a touchscreen machine but it affects us all.




1. won’t 2. would 3. would 4. may 5. should 6. could 7. can 8. might


Explore it more