Here’s a big lie we need to address regarding the future of work. Productivity for its own sake doesn’t lead to increased wellbeing in humans. If your work brings you a sense of flow or purpose, you may be busy or physically tired but fulfilling a role you feel you were born to do energizes and excites you. Checking items off a list and basing long term increase of wellbeing just on volume of activity isn’t sustainable. So we can’t move to a time where one third of our population will be out of work equipped solely with pithy aphorisms about their opportunity to pursue purpose. We need to universally train our entire population in areas of emotional intelligence and positive psychology as if were we training for a marathon. People need to understand the practices of gratitude, altruism, flow, and mindfulness so they’re already practicing them before they potentially lose their job.
And note this training is as much about utilizing these skills outside the workforce as at our jobs. Typically education in Emotional IQ is focused on increasing ROI for a particular organization. Soon we’ll all need to know how to effectively help our families, friends and neighbors during times of emotional upheaval around unemployment. This includes pragmatic realities of the rising costs of healthcare around increased depression rates or things like alcoholism. HR departments that begin to plan for this inevitability today will be much better equipped to help employees struggling with the third of the people in their lives out of work.
Today, productivity is largely focused on exponential increase of profits. It’s about accelerating the bottom line of an organization versus increasing the wellbeing of the humans who work there. This is a moral and societal choice we have already made. I’ve talked about the lack of sustainability for a GDP focused mindset for years, but I’ll put aside that soapbox to implore that as we aggressively pursue automation we assign some of our innovative fervor towards the human needs of our future selves. No matter that the third of people out of work can’t afford to buy the products made by the companies automating them out of their jobs. Let’s make sure that they are equipped to increase their wellbeing where possible.