Labor Day traditionally means outdoor gatherings, BBQ, the end of summer, friends, and neighbors enjoying the day together, and most essentially, a day off from work. It’s the period at the end of a period of more openness, sunshine, and play. It’s a signal that change is coming, that we are moving into more seriousness, buckling down, and getting to business.
Established over a century ago in 1894, Labor Day is the United State’s celebration of its workforce and their achievements. It was also the beginning of putting a stake in the ground in terms of acknowledging the health and wellness of workers, moving away from 12-hour days, unsafe and otherwise poor working conditions, and unfair wages. It was the start of seeing workers as human beings beyond cogs in the industrial system.
Today, as the world grapples and readjusts to work in the time of COVID-19, the climate crisis, economic disparity, and significant disruption to how we work, learn, and connect, are redefining labor once again. While remote work democratizes access to job opportunities for rural and suburban workers, and while companies are embracing inclusion and diversity as core values, we have five additional ways to systematically redefine labor and create equitable workplaces.
- Honor dignity, belonging, and safety for each person. These are basic human needs that, when accessed, can change how people show up in life and work. The fight for equity and equality is at its core a fight for dignity, belonging, and safety. How we create pathways for our employees to access these needs can change an organization’s culture and vitality. Here is a guided practice to help you get started. https://intunecollective.com/meditate/
- Believe in the genius and potential of each person. From recruitment through career progression, how might you dig more deeply into employees’ strengths and develop trust as well as learning opportunities to foster their growth and development? What do you need as a leader to allow this to happen? What tools, practices, or processes can support this mindset of fostering human growth and development within your organization?
- Be humane. Lives are messy and complicated these days and how we find the balance between accountability and grace, productivity and breathing room, drive and creativity, reflects on our ability to serve as humane leaders. In her book, Who Do You Want to Be? about sane leadership, Margaret Wheatley writes, ““As we learn how to hold ourselves with tenderness,….perhaps even with curiosity, we develop a quality of gentleness and acceptance. We accept that we’re just like every other human — we try hard, we mess up, we try again, we fail again — this is what it means to live a life.” Do this for yourself and for your employees.
- Focus on connection and value. Companies are finding that they can be productive in a remote world and many are making or exploring decisions to work remotely on a permanent basis. As technology plays a greater role in our life and work… we should focus more intensively on those aspects that make the most of human beings at work: our humanity. By staying committed to our creativity, collaboration, communication, and consciousness, we can grow our capacity to create new value by leveraging these factors that make human beings uniquely positioned to tackle complex problems. “The workforce challenge for most companies is to make the transition from fixed work outcomes that deliver limited value to dynamic work outcomes with higher levels of potential value.” (Schwartz, Jeff, et al. “Redefining Work for New Value: The Next Opportunity.” MIT Sloan Management Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, 3 Dec. 2019, sloanreview.mit.edu/article/redefining-work-for-new-value-the-next-opportunity/)
- Grow as a New Era Leader What will it take to make all this possible in your workplace? What kind of leader will you need to be? How do you want to show up? The opportunities for evolving, creating new value, and setting organizations up for sustainability in this new era are vast. It will take leaders who are willing to commit to learning and growing themselves to effectively reorient their workforce, manage alignment in both culture and strategy to achieve their vision.