Let's assume for a moment that you were an alien that came to visit earth. What would your impression be if you observed employees today and how they work? Think about the things you would see. Everything from long commutes to stressful meetings, arguments and the constant attachment to a device that sends out messages and notifications. Sure, it's not all bad, but the big picture overview of work wouldn't be so positive.
The latest numbers from research firm Gallup still show that around 70% of American workers are not engaged in their jobs, which basically means they are sleepwalking through their work. This is a scary and alarming statistic. From this group, 18% of employees are actively working against their companies! This group alone costs between $450-$550 billion in lost productivity every year, according to Gallup.
In fact, you don't even need research reports or statistics; just ask some of your friends, family members or colleagues if they enjoy their jobs and see what they say. Think about how we refer to days of the week that describe work: Monday morning blues, terrible Tuesday's and hump-day Wednesdays. What about how grateful we are when it comes to our favorite, "Thank Goodness It's Friday!"
The negative mentality that "work sucks" is embedded in our way of life. It's all around us and it needs to change.
The reason why work "sucks" for many people today is because everything we know about work was built on an old way of thinking, which is now starting to dramatically change. If you look up synonyms for "employee" in the dictionary, you will find things such as: cog, slave or servant. If you look at "work," you will find things such as drudgery, stress, struggle or daily grind. And if you look up "manager," you will find: zookeeper, boss or slave-driver.
Everything we know about work was built upon these mindsets and ideas that an employee is a cog, that work is drudgery,and that managers are slave drivers. This is how "work" used to be for a long time.
However, there is a lot of promise and opportunity for change. This change goes beyond technology, management, culture or anything else, yet it's very basic. It stems from actually redefining and changing how we think about work and everything related to it. This change will come not just because we want it to, but because it has to.
New technologies are giving employees a voice inside of their companies, employees are starting to prioritize meaningful work over pay, flexible work environments are becoming commonplace, managers are starting to focus on engagement instead of fear, sharing is being rewarded and employee happiness and engagement is becoming a front-and-center topic.
The smart and progressive companies today realize that employees are the most valuable asset that they have. Today, employees shouldn't work for a company because they HAVE to, but because they WANT to.
This shift is happening and will take time, but we are steadily moving to rethinking work and everything we know about it. Soon, we won't be forced to ask the question, "why does work suck?"
Jacob is the author of the Amazon best-selling book, The Collaborative Organization.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power," which took place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.
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