By Evin Foss
The fourth industrial revolution is upon us. Worldwide, jobs are changing at a pace that is hard to keep up with. Workplaces are becoming virtual, artificial intelligence will soon take over a percentage of certain job classes, automation continues to rise, physical workplaces are being resigned to accommodate a new generation of employees, and new jobs are being created that our parents couldn’t have even dreamed of. And all of this isn’t going to happen in 15 or 20 years. This is happening now, and the workplace you see today might be unrecognizable in 5 years. Except…there is one constant. People. Even the AI needs people. So what do we want people to feel, think, and do at work? How do we want to interact with each other? How do we want to experience our families, friends and loved ones at home and in our community after a day’s (or night’s) work? Are we going to leave this up to chance and see what it looks like after the dust of this fourth industrial revolution settles?
People working in the “wellness industry” often believe it is our job to get people more healthy, happy, and engaged. And some of us working on corporate culture believe it is our job to get workplaces to be healthier, happier, and more engaging. Is it possible that none of this is our job? Isn’t it a bit audacious to even consider that we have that kind of power over people and workplaces? Instead, might we simply be the architects behind the scenes, carefully crafting and designing conditions in which people and places can be healthier, happier, and more engaged/engaging? So what will this even look like in a dramatically changed workplace landscape? That’s just it. We don’t know. “Wellness” professionals will need to do two key things in the future to be successful in altering the conditions so that people and their workplaces can thrive.
1. First, we will need to be extraordinarily good at observing. Watch, listen and ask. Get curious. Find out what people are feeling at work. Find out what it feels like to be in their workplace… even if that workplace is a virtual cloud touched by people all over the world. They are still people interacting with people to accomplish a goal. If you have been sitting outside the workplaces you are trying to change, as a consultant or practitioner, find a way to get to the inside. Take a 6 month contract job, just to feel what it’s really like! Interview everyone you know about their jobs, their workplaces, and their experiences. And don’t ask them what they do. Ask them how they do it and how they feel while they’re doing it.
2. Second, to be successful in creating conditions for a better working world, we will need humility. We will need to understand that we, in fact, don’t have the answers. We don’t know how to get people to change their behavior and make healthier choices. We don’t know how to create a sustain-ably thriving culture. They know how to. Our job is to be a very big, very clear mirror. Be humble enough to be a servant. Absorb the light and shine it back on those you serve. Find the bright spots and show it to people. Bring people together in conditions in which they can thrive and watch the magic unfold.
We can and we will be a vital part of this next wave of industrial revolution. Revolution is always messy. Get in there, roll your sleeves up, and with a keen sense of curiosity and humility, enjoy the mess of it all. Because in the end, despite the cloud, the AI, the automation, the cool couches and ping pong in the break room, it’s still just about people, people.