50 years ago we managed to land a man on the moon. Since then we have seen incredible advances in technology which allow us to live our lives very differently. But there is one aspect of life that has hardly changed. It’s the drudgery of boring work.
Work should be a joy. But for most people it’s a necessary evil in order to gain enough money to live. I’ve asked hundreds of people (mainly conference audiences) if they would still keep going their job if the won the lottery and didn’t need the money. On a good day 20% might say they would still do the same work, on a bad day it’s zero. What a sad state of affairs.
Why can’t we make work more interesting, engaging and satisfying? Why do we have to bribe people with money to prize them away from things they’d rather be doing? The simple answer is that we haven’t needed to bother. As long as people need money (and the status that goes along with it) we can create frustrating, annoying stressful jobs and get away with it. But suppose they didn’t need the money.
There have been some serious proposals for a Universal Basic Income for every citizen, meaning people wouldn’t need to work in order to live a comfortable life. They might still want to work for extra money, but are more likely to look for other rewards from taking on a job. They would want to gain the satisfaction of achieving results, have the pleasure of collaborating with others and recognition of their contribution. All things that could be built into job design today but often are not.
We still see work as something that’s bad and the rest of life that’s good. Hence the idea of “work-life” balance, trading off the good versus the bad. Now, more than ever, work cannot be separated from the rest of life. Technology allows us to be available 24/7 so we need to be able to integrate work into our lives in ways that work for individual lifestyles. Gone are the days when work could only be performed between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday in a static workplace.
There’s an interesting article in Time Magazine saying “Work-Life Balance is a Myth“. The authors say “The most helpful categories for us are not “work” and “life.” We should not struggle to balance the two. Instead, the best categories are “love” and “loathe.” Our goal should be to, little by little, week by week, intentionally imbalance all aspects of our work toward the former and away from the latter. ” This week is “J for Joy” week in the WiseWork alphabet. Lets bring some joy to people’s lives by giving them back control over a major part of it – the time they spend working.