People want “lives”–not jobs.

Published on February 16, 2017 by  Jim Bellar
Career and Workforce Development Specialist

A couple of times a year I drive the hilly, winding roads of northern Middle Tennessee—a few hours from Nashville– to see to my friend Jeff Poppen (aka the Barefoot Farmer), a nationally known speaker, who lives on one of the largest and oldest organic farms in the state.

We sit on his cabin porch in the late afternoon sun, drink beer, strum some guitars and talk about our challenges and successes. Sometimes I share news about workplace trends, types of companies that are moving to the hot Nashville market and jobs that are being created. At that point, he always reminds me: “people want lives, not jobs.”

When he told me this several years ago, I thought he had been out in the cabbage patch too long and was out of touch with how the world really works.

But think about it: most people are not engaged at work and one of the biggest regrets people have at the end of their lives is that they didn’t pursue their dreams.

Do we really want jobs?

Millennial workers, the largest segment of the workforce, are changing workplaces and whole industries by stressing “life/work balance.” It’s important for them to be fulfilled at work, have flexibility to visit family and friends, to know they are making a difference and to work for companies who share similar values. They may leave if they discover these needs are not being met.

They saw their parents –Boomers who probably had similar dreams, but different priorities–rush up the corporate ladder and sometimes sacrifice the needs of their families for the good of their companies or careers. They also saw their parents buy enormous houses (the average house size in the U.S. is a record 2,600 sq. feet—just for fun –check out the Wall Street Journal’s “The Size of a Home the Year You Were Born”) and fuel the self-storage industry by having too much stuff.

This generation wants very little to do with that world.

“Designing Your Life,” a best seller by two Stanford professors who teach a popular class by the same name, signals a change in how students and employees view the relationship between work and their lives. Some are calling it the new “What Color is Your Parachute,” but it is not a traditional career book–it is a life design book and its success is no accident.

Employers like Facebook understand this shift and are expanding benefits like giving employees 20 days paid leave to grieve immediate family members and up to 10 days to grieve an extended family member. That’s in addition to the four months they already offer new parents—moms and dads alike.

If companies and organizations will support the idea that workers lives are more important than jobs—maybe employees will be more satisfied, productive and engaged; companies will be more successful and maybe communities and families will become stronger.

There is currently a lot of talk about bringing jobs back to America.

Maybe we should focus on bringing back “lives.”

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