The lived experience, working life in the 21st century

Life, in general, has changed dramatically over the last two years. We have had to adjust to severe limitations to our mobility and learn to live with turmoil, disruption, pain, and loss of life. On top of the ravages of the pandemic, we now have the war in Ukraine causing a humanitarian disaster and economic side effects. It is hardly surprising that working life has been disrupted as never before in peacetime.

It is now evidently clear that we need a fundamental rethink of the role work takes in our lives and a serious review of the leadership needed to take us forward. Never has it been more true that “What brought us here might not be the right solution to get us there”.

Even before the war in Ukraine, we had evidence that people’s trust in leadership was lacking. The well-reputed global Edelman Survey found that over 60% of those polled believe that governments and business leaders deliberately mislead us. The polarisation of opinions is apparent.

For too long, businesses have demonstrated too little concern for their stakeholders beyond shareholders. No wonder then that they are not trusted by many. Only recently during the worst of the pandemic did businesses find that they could trust employees to work remotely without being visibly supervised. And many people rebalanced their lives recognising the importance of family and friends over career and compensation.

To quote the worldwide Microsoft Work Trend Index of March 2022: ‘One thing is clear: we’re not the same people that went home to work in early 2020. The collective experience of the past two years has left a lasting imprint, fundamentally changing how we define the role of work in our lives.’

In this series of articles in collaboration with EFMD, partners of the FutureWork Forum, explore the need for a cohesive approach to work and life. It would appear that many leaders are hoping to turn back the clock and revert to their pre-pandemic habits. They will soon find they are out of step with their people who, in troubled times, are looking for purpose in life and therefore work.

To get beyond the basic levels of employment, to address the needs of self-esteem and self-actualisation, requires organisations and their leaders to focus on the human aspects of work.

One of the most important requirements for all, but particularly the young, is the need for hope and belief in the future. Without this, the future of work as a key element of life is in for a rough ride. The bonds that keep society and the economy working in harmony, may be very different and be sorely tested. To provide hope for future generations, business leaders have a rare opportunity to bring back humanity to the workplace.

The lived experience working life in the 21st century introduction

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