How technology can help create meaning in the workplace [Podcast]

by Melissa Cafiero

Some days, your career may feel like a never-ending rat race, or a place where you jump from one task to the next, seemingly without purpose. But that tends to sap your motivation — what drives you to do a good job, to achieve more, even to get up in the morning. In order to feel a connection to your work, to build a career that fulfills you, you need to find meaning in it. And that meaning is what will propel you out of bed.

The latest episode of the Future of X podcast — produced in partnership with OZY — The Future of Work/Life Balance: From Careers to Experiences dives into how to find meaning in your work, and how technology can help.

A hand holds a compass in the foreground against a blurry background of people and buildings, all in a green hue

According to Adam Grant, psychologist, author, and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania:

“The single biggest driver of meaning at work is the belief that your actions in your job have a positive impact on other people. And so one way to find meaning is to ask yourself, if my job didn't exist, who would be worse off?”

In the absence of meaning, it’s usually a paycheck that drives people to show up for work, and the pay is often dependent upon company performance, in addition to other factors. However, as millennials continue rounding out the workforce, their motivations are different from generations past. Millennials’ motivations are shifting, from money to meaning.

A recent study from Deloitte found that 83% of millennials believe that in addition to profits, businesses should also focus on purposeful objectives, including making a positive impact on society and the environment. Illustrating this trend is Crystal Morey, a researcher at Smartsheet:

“When I started my career, a lot of folks told me: Do your job and go home at the end of the day. And you know, that doesn't work for me. I want to do a job that gives back, that fuels me as a human.”

One route to help people find meaning in their work is to use technology, including artificial intelligence and automation, to free up their time for work they are truly passionate about. The key is to ensure that technology helps people not just do more things, but do better things. It’s about quality and priorities, which may require a shift in thinking, especially when it comes to the traditionally-structured workday.

Grant suggests:

“I can definitely say to the managers of the future that the five-day workweek and the 9-to-5 workday are arbitrary conventions. Those are norms that were invented by a group of people at a particular point in time. And I don’t think those norms make sense anymore. And I'm pretty confident, you know, from all the evidence I've read as an organizational psychologist, that you can get more done in six focused hours a day than in eight unfocused hours.”

To find out more about the future of work — and how best to prepare for it — listen and subscribe to the Ozy podcast series The Future of X: The Workplace.