HR word of the day – Aesthetic labour
Aesthetic labour is where employees are required to look (dress, self-presentation) or sound (voice, language used) in a particular way as part of their paid employment, normally in order to match the desired image of the organisation.
The term aesthetic labour has been coined by Warhurst et al (2000) to refer to circumstances where physical appearance and embodied capacities and attributes form the basis of employment. In other words, part of paid employment is concerned with how people look, sound, and present themselves.
Warhurst et al argues that these embodied capacities and attributes which individuals possess are then mobilised, developed, and customised by employers. As such they recruit, select and train staff to suit a predefined corporate style. They report on how employers use the phrases in job advertisements, such as smart appearance, well spoken and very well presented, to signal the kind of people they wish to employ.