The world’s current crises inform the future of work.crisis informs the future of work

Mother Earth is on fire (literally). And the effects of climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic changed the work that we do and hope to do.

My tour guide on a trip that I took to the Netherlands described the mission of his profession succinctly:

“I work to keep issues from becoming problems, and, solve problems so that they don’t become crises.”

Practically every workforce professional addresses issues on a daily basis. These can be time and place management constraints. But often these issues are the line items provided in the specs for the jobs that they were hired to do. For instance, a marketing manager is tasked with overcoming the issue of consumer loyalty erosion. Likewise, an architect looks for ways to mitigate the issue of inefficient energy usage.

Deft professionals keep their work issues well in check. They end each day’s work knowing that the issues that they addressed were solved or at least well contained.

But in the first seven months of 2021, the work that we do became existential. With forest fires and extreme water scarcity ravaging much of the Western United States, and Delta-variant Covid outbreaks spiking throughout the country, problems and crises suddenly reached our job specs and workplaces.

Are we ready to handle full blown crisis on the job?

The crises that we address originate beyond the job spec. In fact, they extend to how work enmeshes into daily life.

While some workplaces allow people the option to continue remote work or a pivot to hybrid work, others demand that their talent return to the traditional office.

The workforce endures the impacts of The Great Resignation. Disproportionately in 2020 and 2021, women dropped out of the American workforce, often because they cannot return to a co-located workplace while managing childcare or the needs of other family members. Among those who resigned are people who fear that a return to the traditional setting will subject them again to workplace toxicity and incivility.

Perhaps the biggest crisis many face on the job originates with hiring managers who seek to restore workplace life to their pre-pandemic conditions.

We must strive for truly intentional workplace practices. Hiring managers need to be cognizant of the issues and problems that their talent endure to do the job, so that things don’t turn critical like an out-of-control forest fire.

When we manage well to stave off crisis in the future of work—then our best days lie ahead.

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Image credits: California forest fire and helicopter, Environmental Damage; Podcast button, J. Brandt Studio for The Dan Smolen Experience.