COVID-19 is not only changing the nature of the work but also the nature of what work means to us and to our identities. Most of us have found ourselves with the time (and the motivation) to ponder just how meaningful and worthwhile we find our jobs. This recent Wall Street Journal article nicely captures the work angst that so many are feeling these days, while also offering up a few tidbits of advice to help us manage through it. (Note: Requires subscription.) Here’s some food for thought:
Finding Meaning in Work
The article reports that 26.7 percent of workers feel unimportant or disengaged from meaningful work a stat that is consistent with pre-COVID-19 engagement measures. Gallup has reported for years that worker engagement is achieved in less than one-third of the workforce. So, have workers really assigned less meaning to their work, or, have perceptions of what it means to be valuable—such as working from home vs. an office—shifted? It would be interesting to see if the data correlates.
The Productivity Paradigm
It has become clear that there were substantial changes already underway on where and when work was progressing. COVID-19 has simply accelerated that change. So, while the threat of loss in job security and opportunity certainly seems true, perhaps we have the opportunity to reframe this fear as an opportunity. The COVID-19 crisis has revealed a glut of work that was inefficient and weighing down systems; has the pandemic and our sudden shift to work-from-home unearthed an opportunity to redefine productivity even further?
Disruptions Reset Expectations
All major disruptions lead to resetting expectations, and we always return to our cultural roots in such times. Yet, every major societal challenge has emerged benefiting those who either stay true to their aspirational beliefs or those to capitalize—and innovate—in the moment. Look at Henry Ford; he innovated on combustion engines in the 1890s, in the midst of two economic waves of panic in 1893 and 1896. While he worked as an engineer at Edison Electric, he was already on the path to changing life as we know it! Will we abandon this drive for innovation in favor of higher forms of work? The example of the 24-year-old factory worker resetting his priorities for the present at the cost of the future is a sign.
Excerpt: Months into a pandemic that brought businesses to a standstill and upended daily routines, many workers are wondering: Does my job matter?
Workers not on the coronavirus front lines haven’t faced the same health risks as those in crisis-critical jobs. But many people who are crafting marketing plans, processing invoices and otherwise toiling from home are confronting existential questions about the meaning of their work amid a world in turmoil.
The professional network Blind conducted a survey for The Wall Street Journal in May, and found that 26.7% of nearly 2,000 respondents agreed with the statement, “I’m not considered essential or don’t think I am, but I’m still working. My work doesn’t feel particularly important or meaningful.”