A New Approach for Making Work More Human
Forbes, Amy Blankson
April 4, 2018
Have you ever caught yourself saying, “If I can just finish this project, then I’ll be human again”?
All too often, we let our work interfere with our humanity, mistakenly assuming that if we can simply hit the pause button on life for a little bit, the end will justify the means. Yet we know from past experience that this simply does not work—as the Rolling Stones once sang, “Time marches on.” By the time we emerge from our task at hand, our bodies, minds and relationships are groaning in frustration.
Why do we feel like we can’t be human at work?
Sometimes the pressure we feel from work is so intense that it requires every bit of our focus and time to meet our goals. This pressure might be internal (a desire to achieve, to check off a box, to gain notoriety) or external (deadlines, finances, expectations from others). Regardless, we know that pausing our humanity is not sustainable for our health or happiness. So, what is to be done?
I recently heard about a company that had been working all year to reach some aggressive sales targets. When December rolled out, the company was still just shy of their goal. It decided to ask its employees to work through the holidays, and finally on December 30, it reached its targets. On New Years’ Eve, the company held a party to celebrate the success and to thank the employees for giving up their holidays. At the end of the night, a senior leader stood up and announced that since they had reached their goals, they had decided to set an even more challenging target for the new year—a decision that was less than enthusiastically received.
What were the senior leaders thinking when they asked their employees to forgo their holiday plans? Did they honestly think their employees could hit a collective pause button on their lives without any ramifications? In the months following this decision, the hidden costs of prioritizing profit over people became apparent. The company struggled with decreased retention of top talent, lower morale, and less engagement across the board.
While I wish this example was a one off, it is unfortunately all too common. A recent Gallup poll revealed that over 51% of the US workforce is not engaged.
A new movement, called WorkHuman, is working to change this. Their mission is to galvanize leaders worldwide to harness the transformative power of people for the next generation of human resources. They aim to change how we work, not just where we work. Eric Mosley, Co-founder and CEO of WorkHuman, explains that “A more human workplace starts with the moment of gratitude, amplified across an organization by inspiring people to be more human, courageous and authentic.” Mosley’s organization does this by recognizing and celebrating breakthrough organizations building human-centric workplaces where employees achieve their fullest potential— where people feel appreciated, connected, and empowered for who they are AND what they do.
This week, more than 3000 leaders from some of the world’s most admired companies, including JetBlue, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, Walgreens, and LinkedIn, will attend the WorkHuman’s conference in Austin, Texas to have real conversations about how we create work cultures that energize people to do the best work of their lives and allow businesses to thrive.
This year’s conference will focus on the theme of “Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging” and will feature a historic #MeToo panel which will discuss respect, equality, and harassment in the workplace. Moderated by Adam Grant, a Wharton professor and advocate of greater equality in the workplace, the panel features key figures in the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. For the first time ever together, the panel features Tarana Burke, Ashley Judd, and Ronan Farrow.
Through leadership and role-modeling, organizations in the WorkHuman movement are helping us to re-envision what work could look like in the future. However, it will take all of us acting independently and collectively to bring about change. Rather than hitting the pause button in the midst of stress, let’s lean into life by with authenticity, openness and grace for those around us. Let’s ground ourselves with intention to be the kind of people that we want to be around. And let’s aspire to create a world in which work feeds our souls and our humanity.