Redefining the Balance: The Future of Work Starts with Life

This content is also available in

For years, organizations have been paying lip service to the Work-Life concept. We introduced programs as a way to tell employees, “we care about you,” but if truth be told, we were primarily concerned with your ability to work and be productive. So, if we needed to provide you with health and mental wellbeing services, gym memberships, yoga classes, or even healthy snacks, we would do all that—as long as it freed up your time and energy for work. But now, amidst a world forever changed by global events and a seismic shift in worker priorities, all that is undergoing a revolutionary change.

When an International Standardization Organization decides to create an ISO standard around Wellbeing that is more evolved than how most organizations treat employee wellbeing, I had to stop and take a second look. Especially since systems are usually slower to respond to change compared to organizations, it begs the question: how have we arrived at a Wellbeing Standard while organizations are still trying to convince employees to revert to the pre-COVID mode of work?

Wellbeing is not a new concept. Workers have lives, but for years, those lives only began when work ended. And for all those years, we’ve been negotiating where to draw that line. What began as a demand for labor rights and basic working conditions has shifted towards a dialogue about the balance between work and personal life, mirroring the rise of the middle class and the increasing participation of women in the workforce. In recent years, enabled by the digital age’s promise of work from anywhere and the millennial generation’s market entry, we’re witnessing a push towards work-life integration over mere balance. This shift emphasizes flexibility, purpose, and the quality of work life as cornerstones of overall satisfaction and well-being.

It took a pandemic to wake the rest of us up to the fact that life is short, and that every day we work is a day of our lives we trade, so it better be worth it. Suddenly, the idea that hard work is the highest form of expression, the badge of honor we talk about when we say things like “I worked through the weekend” or “I have an 11pm meeting,” no longer made sense. The Great Resignation became a powerful declaration of “I don’t want to work like I used to,” leading countless individuals to abandon their jobs in search of more fulfilling alternatives. The Great Reshuffle taught us that when they searched for new jobs, they were negotiating Life, not just Work.

MIT Sloan Management Review research showed that this sentiment was shared by both blue and white-collar sectors with equal force, and that a toxic corporate culture was the biggest factor pushing employees out the door during the Great Resignation, being ten times more important than compensation. At the same time, Microsoft’s Work Trends 2022 Index unveiled the new Employee Worth It Equation—what people desire from work and what they’re ready to give in return—underscoring a pivotal shift in priorities. Now, one out of every two employees prefers to prioritize health and wellbeing over work.

This democratization of wellbeing, extending beyond knowledge workers to encompass all employment, transforms it from a perk into a fundamental employment right, reshaping the essence of work contracts and how work integrates into every aspect of life. Given the abundance of open positions and the scarcity of talent, it’s unsurprising, for example, that respect in the workplace has become non-negotiable. Even if you work in a store or restaurant and your manager yells at you, all you need to do is cross the street to another establishment and get hired with the same pay, but with one critical demand—to be treated with respect.

So, if you’re out there contemplating your next “employee wellbeing program,” it’s time to face the music. The Future of Work starts with Life. We no longer want to fit life around work but the other way around – we want to integrate our work into our lives in a way that works for the whole of us.

That doesn’t mean people don’t want to work. They do. But they no longer want to work for you just because they have to, or because you tell them to, or because you measure their worth by it. They work for you because they want to, because working for you aligns with achieving their purpose in life.

This emerging paradigm necessitates a total redesign of our people and work processes, fundamentally altering how we assemble teams, manage, engage with, and reward our employees.

Welcome to the next decade of the Future of Work. It’s going to be interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Nirit Cohen

Nirit Cohen is an expert in the future of work, bridging the gap between emerging trends and practical solutions, providing valuable insights for careers, management, organizations, and broader societal systems.

Popular Posts
Subscribe to receive the Blog (in Hebrew)

What’s your focus today?

People & Careers: Building Engagement and Development Opportunities at both Organizational and Personal Levels
Managers & Organizations: Preparing Employees, Processes, Leadership, and Organizations for Tomorrow’s Workplace

People & Careers

Managers & Organizations

Education & Public Policy

Stay Updated...
sign up to my Blog (in Hebrew)
כדי שתהיו מוכנים... הירשמו לניוזלטר השבועי