I often wonder why we divide our lives into work vs. play, work days vs. weekends, and professional vs. personal. It feels like most of us apply our whole selves to only half our lifetimes, and work is the half that suffers. Something is keeping us from embracing work as meaningful and fulfilling, but what is it?
The Industrial Revolution replaced craftsmanship with machinery and routine. But now technology is sparking a humanity renaissance in the workplace that values transparency, creativity, grit, and engagement in shared stories. Businesses are becoming democratic, and jobs are turning into vocations.
As a startup CEO and Director of Happiness at a startup incubator, every day is an opportunity to think progressively as a team. Innovation is what we do, but I'm learning that happiness isn't the magical feeling that people really want.
Happiness is an emotional state of being. It's watching Friends or downing a Corona on the beach--a by-product, not a jumping off point. While I work tirelessly to ensure happiness for our employees, I want them to be whole even more. So I changed my job, and I've changed my thinking.
Instead of happiness, I want wholeness. I'm re-calibrating our culture so that honesty about ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, and what we think is free to wander. By creating a community of wholeness I'm increasing productivity, but I'm also encouraging our family of workers to own their jobs and be real. Our office is more collaborative, job descriptions more fuzzy, and input more democratic than ever.
This is the future of work.
Authenticity--Real Good, Not Feel Good.
Authenticity is the root system of real relationships, and there's a lot of buzz about it right now. None of it is wrong, but I sense we're missing something--especially at work. It's not a mysterious point on a scale between 'closed-off" and 'over-sharing'. It's an approach to healthy living, and it's less mathematical than we make it out to be.
Authenticity is two simple words working together at all times: genuine and relevant. If you're consistently real and engaged in what's happening, you can't 'over-share' or be 'closed off'. You're regularly contributing appropriate insights for team goals, listening well, and sharing pieces of yourself. It's deliberate and self-aware--an engaged approach to building a wholehearted team, not building up ourselves.
Empathy--Collaboration, Not Alienation.
Hiccups in technology or operations are simple compared to interpersonal conflicts in the office. They kill time, productivity, money, but most importantly, office morale. A negative, gossipy work culture banishes more authenticity and ownership from workers than a 10 day broadband failure.
Empathy undermines the poison of personnel conflicts in ways that policies and job descriptions never could. If we're all authentic, striving for the same goals, and genuinely understanding where our co-workers come from, there's simply no space for break room ball-busting or meeting room shaming.
Engagement--Curiosity, Not Mediocrity
If you're an entrepreneur, you know engagement. You show up early, stay late, work weekends, and perpetually wonder. Your business is your baby.
But many employees give up on engagement and switch to autopilot because their sense of ownership is stifled. Overly strict processes and closed avenues for bottom-up innovation ensure your workforce thinks of nothing but job descriptions and pay days.
This is all changing in the future of work. Job descriptions are nothing more than a reference point. To provide employees autonomy in their tasks and space to create new ideas not only improves performance and productivity, it allows them to reap pride, ownership, and fulfillment from their work the same way entrepreneurs do. And when innovation is rewarded with acknowledgment and incentives, employees are heartened to think creatively about how to progress personally and as a business--just like entrepreneurs.
I have a friend in a large corporate office. He's blowing away middle and upper management with innovative ideas, new processes, and sky-high benchmarks for performance in under two years. And they all work. In return, they're restricting his unprecedented investment with the same time limits on promotions and management opportunities as they do with underachievers--and this is a Fortune 250 company.
He's looking for another job.