Automation. Flexibility. A more diverse workforce. There’s plenty in the future to feel optimistic about, but the evolving nature of work has had some negative consequences, too. The same executive decisions intended to bring jobs into the 21st century can send an altogether different—and malicious—message to people who already feel left out: “You’re not needed here.”
A recent Brookings publication, “Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century,” charts how broad social and economic changes have contributed to an alarming rise in “deaths of despair” among middle-aged, working-class white people in the United States. Compared to other demographic groups, a disproportionate number of white men and women without high school degrees are dying in their 40s and 50s from drugs, alcohol, and suicide.
A Measurable Deterioration in Economic and Social Well-being
Why? The authors theorize the trend is at least partially due to “a measurable deterioration in economic and social well-being.” Fewer white, working-class Americans have steady jobs or steady marriages, and their mental and physical health is suffering as a result.
In the Harvard Business Review, sociologist Allison J. Pugh digs into the problem further, unearthing the emotional sinews that join life at work and life at home. Job insecurity, she argues, leads to domestic insecurity. When people can’t depend on their employers, they turn entirely toward their relationships with their spouses, partners, friends, and family members at home. If those commitments fall apart—and they frequently do under the increased pressure—there’s little meaning or fulfillment left for the unemployed or semi-employed.
It’s as if people say, ‘We might not be able to rely on our employers, but surely, in our intimate lives, we can count on each other.’
Yet when they set unreasonably high expectations at home, it can lead to a certain brittleness, an inability to bend or handle inevitable ups and downs. … [W]hen people have no way of addressing failed commitments at work, they double down on the importance of commitment in other parts of their lives. And when those commitments don’t meet their expectations, despair can grow. …
[W]hen we talk about work today, we have to talk about it in the context of an unrequited contract, our collective acquiescence to the notion that work can no longer be counted on. When people are left out in the cold by their employers, they steer their yearnings for commitment toward other arenas, such as their personal relationships with friends and family.
Believe it or not, one possible solution to this devastating pattern can be found in your organization’s workforce compliance program.
It’s Not a Conflict Between Robots and Employees
Certainly, there are companies out there that don’t value their employees, but we know from experience that the overwhelming majority of employers consider their people to be their number one asset. It’s not a conflict between robots and employees, or a competition between these people and those people, but a communication problem: Does everyone at your organization feel valued and secure? Does your organizational culture emphasize trust and accountability? Do employees know who to go to for support?
Your people depend on you. Show them they’re not disposable by demonstrating compliance—a commitment to their safety, security, and well-being. Read more about what it takes to set the right tone throughout your organization, and what everyone stands to gain from compliance.