Reimagining Growth: From Only Profits to Profits with Well-Being

As of 2018, according to the International Labor Organization(ILO), we have 7.8 billion on the planet and 3.3 billion of us form the working age population of 15 or older. This is 61.4 percent of the globe engaged in work at any given point. 

Goal # 3 of United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals is Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well Being for all at all ages & Goal # 8 is Promote sustained, inclusive and sustained economic growth , full and productive employment and decent work for all. 

ILO’s 2019 Report of the Global Commission of the Future of Work calls for a new focus on a Human Centered Agenda for the future of work.  

On an average a worker spends 8.4 hours a day working which as we all know is close to a third of our lives at the very least. Having worked in both US and India and also having plenty friends in the workforce I can say that this 8 hour per day average may not be relatable for many. Averages as we can see help us make some assumptions which may not be the true story. Even if we were to go by this average, I think it would be common sense to deduce that one’s living experience in that third of the life definitely impacts the other two-thirds in ways ranging from quality of sleep, physical energy, emotional balance, quality of intimacy/connection etc. 

Now that I have thrown some macro data at you, let me tell me you what prompted me to write this blogpost on Re-imagining Growth. Growth as we understand it in a macro and micro sense drives our lives and the quality of our lives. In a macro sense, most countries still use the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as not one of the but the only indicator of growth which leads to organizations using the measure of Profits as their sole indicator of growth which in turn leads to us as individuals marking personal success mostly in terms of the salary we draw, the property/other stuff we own and the type of schools we can afford to send our children to. 

Most children’s lives are driven by success markers tied to what type of salaries they would be able to earn. The compound effect of this fragmented approach to success and growth is the creeping/gnawing void that many of us experience in our personal lives and thereby in the society as a whole.

As an ordinary citizen who observes what happens around her, I wondered where is the sense of well-being as a marker of progress? How can we make this macro data more relatable at a micro level i.e. in our daily lives?

Now, there are some countries like New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Iceland who seem to be integrating this new view into their growth markers which is great but often times, we forget that we as individuals really do have the power to make small incremental changes which could  slowly but surely shift the whole. This is why I am writing this blog, for us as regular citizens to begin viewing our lives from a well-being standpoint rather than just mindlessly chasing some golden eggs in a future state. 

Another perspective on well-being also comes from the Customer/Consumer’s standpoint, when we say Customer is the King, is he/she really? 

Some questions I asked myself in the process were: 

  1. What would our work lives look like if managers sat down and had a conversation with their direct reports not just about fulfilling targets but about our well-being on a routine basis? 
  2. What would it look like if during goal setting, it was normal for managers to consider life events occurring in one’s life like death of a loved one or mental illness one is battling with? 
  3. What would it look like if we made it OK to breakdown at work and admit that one was burning out? What would it take for us to create this space where exposing our vulnerabilities didn’t bring about a loss of pay or not being given challenging assignments altogether? 
  4. What would it look like if we placed a Consumer’s well-being and not just his/her wallet at the center while making Product decisions?  
  5. What would it look like if we placed a Consumer’s well-being at the center while creating marketing messages? 
  6. What would it look like if Shareholders/Investors insisted on uncompromising standards to ensure the well-being of their workers/consumers/environment? 
  7. What would it look like if Doctors practiced medicine solely based on a patient’s well-being?
  8. What would it look like if we all could admit that we do not understand the impacts of all we do on the planet and its people and humbly look to others who could help? 
  9. What would our children’s lives look like if the parents could attend to the child’s needs more fully instead of having to multi-task around it? 
  10. What would it look like if we took the time to consider the impacts of our daily consumption choices on the planet’s well-being or the well-being of a worker in some distant land?
  11. What would it take for us to not wait for someone else to shed light on such issues and for us to be mindful of the power that we posses in our daily lives?

One assumption I am making in the above post is that we all know what well-being means because we all know when we are overworked/underpaid/disrespected or treated solely as a machine who needs to deliver more and need to do it faster each time. In simpler terms, it is being kinder to ourselves and then experience the exponential impact of that in the society we create. Now, that would be a future where money truly becomes the means and not the end in itself. 

Another assumption I am making is that in this Information Age, when we carry the right questions in our heart, we make the necessary attempts to go find the “how” on our own. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is a one of a kind experience for our times and we all have assimilated it in different ways, one thing we all know somewhere is that things aren’t truly working well for the majority in the state they currently are.

When we learn to honor well-being by keeping it at the center, we would somewhere begin to create space to nurture our individual and collective creative potential. We have overused the Productivity mindset and now need to create space for the Creative.

Let’s find those tiny little cracks where we can make a small difference everyday and then do it. 

I would like to close with Margaret Mead’s quote : “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

P.S: Last New Year on the 1st I penned 41 Paradigm Shifts for the New Decade and this New Year I offer you these thoughts as you step into the new decade. Hope you carry some of these questions and share answers as you get them or even new questions 🙂 

References: 1) International Labor Organization’s 2018 Report – World Employment Social Outlook- https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_670542.pdf

2) United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals- https://sdgs.un.org/2030agenda

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