[This article was originally published on Switch & Shift]
Today, our organizations are a lot of things…
They are the economic engines of the world. For example, did you know that of the top 150 economic entities in the world, 58% of those entities are corporations — not nations/countries?
They are the places where we occupy
some most of our time. Where do we spend more of our life than at work? In a word, nowhere.
They are the things that most prominently dictate the way we live. The way we dress, the amount of vacation we get to take, and the people we see most often — all are determined primarily by our workplace.
Yes, our organizations are many things. One thing they are NOT, however — at least for most of us — is a center of well-being.
People who write (and obsess) about the things I write (and obsess) about often reference statistics and studies about things like employee engagement. You’ve probably heard stats like two out of every three people in the US are not engaged at work. This is true, terrible, and a helpful measurement for us to understand what’s going on, but what if there’s an even bigger problem to contend with?
When we start to think about our work being the “sun” that the rest of our lives orbit around, I think a larger, more all-encompassing, more holistic picture is probably in order.
Something like “well-being” starts to make more sense.
But well-being at work isn’t a pretty picture, either. Only 12% of employees strongly agree that they have substantially higher overall wellbeing because of their employer. 12%! I’m no mathematician, but by my calculations that’s approximately no one whose life is significantly improved by their workplace.
I dare say this issue will become one of the defining human rights issues of our time.
“Now, wait a minute!” you might say in response. At first glance, having a great workplace doesn’t sound nearly as serious as many other human rights issues our society is faced with — it sounds like a “nice to have,” not a “need to have.” But from a Maslow hierarchy standpoint, an organization that promotes your wellbeing is exactly what we need to have.
A workplace that makes your life better is directly connected to the foundational levels of your needs pyramid. Your job is the way you buy the food you need for sustenance and how you pay for the roof over your noggin’, of course. But it also has an enormous impact on your health and even your mortality rate. It directly affects how much sleep you get (which then directly impacts how well you perform at work). It influences the friends you have and how much you see your family. Research from Gallup even goes so far to say that “Having a job that is disengaging is, in many ways, worse psychologically than having no job at all.”
It might be good to read that last sentence one more time…
“Having a job that is disengaging is, in many ways, worse psychologically than having no job at all.”
Everything in this article is not just my opinion (though I passionately believe it all). This is research based on science and empirical study, and more is piling up daily.
While a “great job” may not be a human rights issue at the level of pure survival, it’s pretty closely tied to many (if not most) of our fundamental needs as human beings. Furthermore, as more of our global citizens are lifted out of poverty and into the working population, the worldwide NEED for meaningful work may very well become one of the most pressing human rights issues of tomorrow.
If we’re smart, we’ll start working on it today.