I received an email from indeed.com inviting me to listen to a Job Cast’ workshop titled Well-Being at Work: Understanding What Drives Work Happiness. The description read:

You spend a large portion of your life at work, so it’s important that you find a position that represents more than a paycheck. Trust, belonging, flexibility, appreciation and a sense of purpose all contribute to your well-being at work.

Tune in for this virtual workshop to learn how to find a job that makes you happy, plus how to be happy while finding a job.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this for a while now. I’m not quite sure that I’m fully ready to put my thinking on this down fully, but this felt like a way to introduce a concept that I don’t see discussed in a lot of places (a few…well, a very few, but definitely not a lot).

This workshop (its description, anyway) makes some fundamental assumptions. The primary assumption it’s making is that work is inevitable. That it’s necessary. That it’s natural.

The thing is, the way we’ve organized our societies — around exchanging our labor for a currency that we can use to buy life necessities such as housing, health care, food, etc. (as well as luxuries like vacations, fancy clothes, and whatnot) — is just that: the way we’ve organized our societies. It’s no more natural than the way you’ve organized your closet.

There are a lot of ways that we could organize ourselves to meet the individual and collective needs of all people, and the way we have is one of them.

For years and years and years, Gallup has done surveys on employee engagement. And for many, many years, the numbers have either declined or plateaued. And they’re not good. There hasn’t been a whole lot of improvement. And that’s despite billions of dollars spent on consultants, engagement programs, moral programs, etc., etc., etc. Perhaps the questions we are asking are wrong.

Perhaps instead of asking, how do we help people be more engaged with work?”, we should be asking, why is it that people have to work in the first place?”

I know, I know. There are a lot of things that need to be done in order for society to function (even if we were to organize differently around our economy and resource allocation, we still all have to poop. Someone has to deal with that). That’s true. No doubt. But let’s not let that get in the way of the larger question: why are we continuing to choose a structure for our society that has so many (more than 70% according to some polls) disengaged in their lives? Not to mention a structure that leaves so many struggling to make ends meet?

These questions actually have some answers, but that’s not what I’m up to here. Right now, I just want to lay this in the center: what if our lives were centered, and not the economy? What if our organizing principles were what is life-giving?

What might the world look like?

And how necessary would a workshop such as Well-Being at Work: Understanding What Drives Work Happiness be?

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