An increasing amount of people feels disconnected with their work. With an earth suffering from climate change, mental health problems on the rise and with a Corona Virus now attacking and limiting the lives of us all, more and more people start to think about what they actually find important.
Usually, one would start writing an article by addressing something that happened last week or by making some generic point. However, my life and work this week have been business as usual. This week was more or less the same as the week before. And the week before that.
What is actually new here for me, is that I'm happy with that. After years of struggling to find joy in my work life I am now at a place where I can honestly say that I love my work. I love that on a daily basis, I challenge people and organisations to change the way they look at work. Helping them to take all the straps off, and look at what they're doing in a completely 'naked' perspective. You're a programmer? Ok, cool, tell me why it's so important that you program this stuff. You're a salesman? Nice, what's so good about what you're selling?
They're super simple questions. Really simple. And yet, most people cannot answer them. Sometimes they really struggle, more often they come up with fake answers and simply repeat what people around them are saying. It's truly remarkable: a lot of people have no idea why the hell they go to work every day (or in these times, stay at home and work everyday). Of course, there's definitely people who are happy with what they do. Usually it means that they enjoy what they do. It's unfortunately less common to hear why they find it important what they do.
And what's even worse: we are collectively ignorant when it comes to work happiness. We don't see that we're lacking a personal 'why', pushing away feelings of dissatisfaction or frustration. Our ignorance, however, is logical. Solutions to our feelings of being disconnected are not obvious and usually an indicator for a difficult period lying ahead: trying to find 'your passion', unlocking your 'true talents' and doing something that 'gives you energy'. Nobody really seems to know how to do that. The reality is that the vagueness of the words we are choosing to describe a truly satisfying job showcases what we lack: deep and factual knowledge of ourselves, our happiness, and why we don't like the work that we do.
We wonder why burnout and depression rates at the work floor are going up, and keep sending people to doctors to fix 'their problem'. What we persistently fail to see, is that we created a world of work where people experience a growing sense of disconnection. We created organization setups, organization goals, careers, jobs, processes and work environments that are not matching with who we really are, how we function as human beings. Organizations nowadays feel they're addressing work happiness issues with a cool office environment, or new sports facilities. Obviously, this is just scratching the surface, and it's a ridiculous approach to address a growing feeling of job dissatisfaction. Do you really want to make yourself and your employees happy? Then it's time to not only change some of the things we do. It's time to change almost all the things we do.
Think of it: a species that evolved for millions of years to roam forests in tribes, all of sudden is working behind screens, doing repetitive and routine work, according to fixed schedules. On a day to day basis employees are occupied with stuff like purchase orders, KPI’s and hours and hours of emailing. We spend our times worrying about management meetings, shareholder values, delivery times and god knows what else. In reward, at the end of the month, we see some digital numbers on our bank account change. That’s it.
We constructed a system in which ideally, we all deliver value. It’s about team work: if everyone contributes to the bigger picture, together we will become successful. But here exactly lies the problem. We are not in sync with that bigger picture any more, if we ever were. People do not intrinsically care for profit margins and shareholder value. People do not intrinsically care for a shitload of products we are producing, seeing that the world gets more and more stuffed with useless crap. People don’t really want to spend their time administrating the work that they do for managers to see it. People are human beings, and we don’t treat them like that at all. With the evolution of capitalism and the rise of information technology, our mental health is decreasing, but yet we fail to address it in a society perspective. We keep treating the people, where our society is sick.
That is why in 2018, I founded Meaningful Work. An increasing amount of people feels that we’re not focusing on the right things. With an earth suffering from climate change, mental health problems on the rise and with a Corona Virus now attacking and limiting the lives of us all, more and more people start to think about what they actually find important. And since we live in a society that’s fixing people’s work happiness with all sorts of quackery, it’s time we really start to see things the way they are. It’s time we start to ask the right questions when it comes to work happiness. It’s time we start to ask the right questions about what our goals should really be. It’s time we start thinking beyond what’s normal today, and focus on what should be normal today.
The good news is: it doesn't have to be that hard. By cutting the crap with ourselves, we can see what we find truly important. We can make different choices in what we decide to do every day. We can make different choices in how we define jobs, careers and organizations. The most important thing we need for that, is to understand that what we want is actually not that difficult, huge or bizarre. We just want to do things that matter, that have an impact on someone, somewhere at some time. We want to be fully ourselves, connected with our innate motivation.
Though it can be a challenging quest to be on, we can help each other immensely. If we start to be fully honest with ourselves and others, we will find understanding. By being open to discuss our inner desires, we can really learn from each other. By allowing ourselves to think beyond the limitations of today, we can grow and create a different world together. Meaningful Work is on a mission to help both individuals and organizations to cut the crap and fundamentally rethink work happiness. My question to you is: are you with us?