The world of work is changing. Whether we’re shaping it or furiously trying to catch up, is up to us.
As consumers, we get to vote for the future with our buying power. When it comes to what we actually want and need, how and where things are produced as well as the working systems and conditions that produce it, we can influence our economies with our values and choices.
As entrepreneurs, we help create the new world of work. We get to build ways of working that actually work for us, our families, our staff and communities. Many of us are taking control and establishing freedoms with our careers by running our own gig, going freelance or looking for companies or collaborations who offer time and location flexibility and autonomy in our roles. As employers we’re catching on to the value and importance of reimagining what it means to hire a dream team. The new boss doesn’t care about the facetime you’re putting in or what hours you’re working, but instead that you get the job done and meet your promises. The exceptional new boss also cares about your health, satisfaction and that you’re doing meaningful work for you and their customers.
Teams these days look a lot different than they used to and the challenges and opportunities are morphing. It’s not uncommon to have team members spanning different countries and timezones, mixing part and full time contractors, employees and freelancers. But just because the structure of these roles seem to offer more sovereignty, it doesn’t mean that we’re free from the systemic and cultural assumptions about the world of work and business or what it means to be good and succeed. We inherited a whole suite of values and practices that are simply shifting form and language, but not necessarily busting apart and being rebuilt as they should.
We desperately need to question the ways of working that value endless upward growth while maximizing profit at the expense of everything else. Working longer and harder, extracting our physical, mental, emotional and environmental resources while we claw and compete for our slice of success is such the norm that when we feel weary, burnt out or like something is fundamentally off, many of us assume it must be our own failings. Today’s interpretations of these values and practices ask us to hustle, hack and crush it.
I need to go make a cup of tea and regulate my nervous system after just writing that last paragraph, nevermind participating in it. As the world of work changes, we can be bystanders, trying to determine what this all means for us and what the new expectations are. Or we can set the expectations. We can experiment with new practices. To do that we need to examine the rules and standards we have unconsciously internalized to be set.
Who says you need to reply to those emails by end of business day? What happens if you opt to NOT signal your virtues or status on Social Media? Why can’t you breastfeed at that board meeting? Why 40 hours? Or 60? Must ‘work’ and ‘life’ be mutually exclusive? Does harder equal better? Richer equal more successful? Who says and do you choose to agree?
If there are rules to the ways of working that seem outdated, unjust and just plain counterproductive, they probably are. Start by naming what they are, then questioning where they came from and whose interests they serve. Then rewrite them.
There are all sorts of adjectives to describe these times we’re in. Many are scary and leave us feeling overwhelmed and helpless. But one of the ways to quickly and powerfully own your own work is to consciously question the assumptions and practices that are driving it. Systems and cultures are built. They’re not static and aren’t immune to change. A lot is shifting and crumbling and we’re primed to build something better. Our little corners where we set up our desks are an invitation to enact the change we’re seeking.
Even if you don’t identify as a leader or hold a leadership role professionally, you’re ARE in charge of, and thus leading, how you approach your work. Being intentional about how we direct our attention and efforts, as well as examining our beliefs, habits and expectations around work within the wider cultural context are ways that we can participate in, rather than be at the affect of, these shifting and changing times.
I’d love to hear from you. What are you leaving behind and growing into when it comes to your work? What beliefs and norms have you had to challenge? What could help to build your confidence as you continue to construct a new future?