Beyond robotic work
Someone said to me the other day ‘it’s only work’ and it prompted a deeply visceral response. Now I recognise that I could very easily take on the label of workaholic and all that goes with that but over the years my relationship with work has fundamentally changed. Yes, I still work long hours and think about work more than many but for me my work is a vocation – an expression of my service in this world.
I fundamentally believe that this thing we call work, is a deeply powerful aspect of life. At its best, it affords most people at least a basic standard of living hopefully. It enables society to function in a mutually interdependent way. It leads to the expression of often incredible creativity and innovation, some of which can literally be life-changing. It facilitates personal growth and self-expression, often provides social interaction and support and offers a sense of belonging that can be hard to match.
Why then do we hear people saying ‘it’s only work’? Or that they want more work-life balance with the emphasis on reducing the work aspect of it? The reasons for our disaffection with work are many and varied judging by what I often hear. For some it has to do with the climate or culture within which people work. For others it will be to do with having become stuck or stale in their role and in some cases it may be more to do with the impact of choices they have made in their family/personal life requiring them (for financial reasons) to stay with work that is no longer fulfilling.
And yet work has the potential to be such a beautiful and life-enhancing experience – one which we value and where we feel valued. And whilst for sure it’s a personal responsibility/choice thing, it’s also something that leaders can impact. Recognising that climate and culture are the energetic food of great performance would be a great place to start and being actively focused on building great workplaces – workplaces where the quality and nature of human interaction is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Building great climates and cultures requires the board to be actively paying attention – not just to staff surveys but to their own behaviours and attitudes and to those of every single leader in the organisation. It requires fastidious holding to account when unhelpful behaviours or attitudes undermine the stated values and desired ways of being. In short it requires culture and climate to be at the top of the strategic agenda.
As technology marches inexorably into ever more areas of the workplace do we really want to create a climate and culture where only robots can thrive when we can nurture a culture where our unique human talents can flourish.