The Working Worried

Many of us, today, are working and worried. Gone are the days when having a job meant “doing your job.” We are feeling anxious and worried because we can no longer expect our work to be the same as it was in the past. Staying ahead of the game is what it takes simply to be part of the game. We feel the pressure to renew our most important asset – ourselves.

It’s the End of Work as We Know It

What’s happening right now is a global issue with deep personal effects. The world that is emerging from the pandemic cannot resemble the old. Covid-19 shouts: “It’s the end of work as we know it!” If we’re feeling anxious and powerless, knowing that it’s not just “me” can be helpful – others are dealing with this too. Everyone is taking a hit on this one!

Absolute certainty, of course, is impossible. Nothing is certain in work or life. Ten years ago, Facebook didn’t exist. Ten years before that, we didn’t have the Web. Ten years from now, the world won’t look the same. Today, we see a more fluid, more freelance, and, far less secure work world. Many of us feel isolated and worried about our jobs. We are unclear about our organization’s future. We yearn for a return to “normalcy” – “to get our lives back!”

The Challenge: Grow or Die

Can we grow from this pandemic? The answer is “YES!” Studies show growth after 9/11, earthquakes, war, fires, cancer, and loss of loved ones. We can grow from our experience of Covid-19. We humans are resilient – we can come out stronger. As a coach who has studied change and transition for over four decades, I am humbled and moved by the stories of growth I hear today.

We all have “crucible” moments – transformative experiences through which we come to a new or altered sense of growth, times when our character is tested.

How do we grow? First, take time to pause and reflect on these three new work realities.

First, Expect Zero Security.

For much of the 20th Century, working meant a full-time job which included benefits and a retirement plan. It also meant job security. Job security was the expectation, even the “right” of an individual.

Today, big organization no longer means job security. Contingent work has become a “new normal.” Workers at all levels market themselves through their social networks, forming connections and gaining new jobs through social media. Access to work is no longer limited to physical location. Contingent work means more choice, more freedom, and, of course, less security.

Work will increasingly become “free agent”-driven. The digital revolution has produced a new structure and culture of work in which contingent – contract, freelance, part time, adjunct, consultant, self-employed, and free agent work is replacing many once secure jobs.

A report, issued by the Government Accounting Office, reported that 31% of the workforce was “independent” workers. They further reported that “freelancers” will make up 40% to 50% of the workforce by 2020. Those numbers constitute a sea change.

Second, Act like You, Inc.

The flatter and more networked the workplace has become, the more essential it is for us to continually build and communicate our “value proposition”- which enables us to stand out in a crowd of talent. The pandemic has pushed the value proposition to center stage. We now must bring a clear “You, Inc.” mindset to work. Employers and clients are looking for people who have a clear “You, Inc.” value proposition. This means clarity on how your talents and experience will add valued solutions to their challenges.

The new “psychological contract” has shifted the responsibility for security from organizations to individuals. The big “tipping point” was the 2008 recession where traditional layoffs changed. Previously, layoffs were temporary. People were eventually called back. Layoffs became permanent. This painful reality created a new truth – “doing a good job no longer guarantees having a good job.” It has become more secure to think and act like “You, Inc.” The new work world requires that we “know ourselves” and know our “value proposition.”

Third, Become an Intrapreneur.

Intrapreneurship is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur while working within an organization.
We need to become “intrapreneurs.” We don’t have to be an entrepreneur to work with the mindset of an intrapreneur. Intrapreneurs have greater control over the kind of work they tackle. They work on projects for a period of time and then move on to the next one. They look for ways to develop innovative ideas within a company. Intrapreneurs are self-motivated, proactive, and action-oriented people who offer their distinct value-proposition to employers.

An intrapreneur may not gain the rewards of an entrepreneur because they have access to the resources and capabilities of an established company.

What’s at Stake?

The effects of unemployment, underemployment, being employed but “working worried”, or retired and working are well documented by researchers. They consistently report on problems with identity and self-esteem, conflicts in relationships, depression, substance abuse, and other more substantial mental and physical problems.

Losing your job or working worried can give you a heart attack. A new Duke University study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, found that being unemployed, experiencing multiple job losses, and even going for a short period without work was linked to a greater chance for a heart attack for people ages 51-75. Losing a job upped the chances by 22%; losing a job twice, 27%; three times, 52%; and, four or more 63%.

That’s merely one example of what’s at stake. New realities evoke new questions:

  • What am I doing to use the pandemic crisis to grow personally and professionally?
  • What am I learning about myself from this experience?
  • What inspired or moved me in the past week?

Reimagining Work

Reimagining our work is a “life skill” for the 21st century. It is not a luxury for the segment of society privileged enough to have choices about their future. It’s a necessity for all segments of society facing the realities of the changing work landscape, including people who are just trying to survive, scraping together enough income to pay for the necessities of living. Many constraints can serve as barriers to reimagining work, and they are not equally distributed. Some people face more obstacles then others. Yet, paradoxically, emerging evidence suggests that reimagining work may, in fact, be most needed by the working worried.

Calling CardsTM is a free downloadable practice on It is an exercise to help you reimagine your gifts + passions + values = your calling. The exercise invites you to sort a deck of 52 cards into the five things you most enjoy doing. Each card represents a gift – a talent or strength. Ultimately, the exercise gives you paths to explore as you face the new work world.

At a core level, we all need something to do and something to look forward to when we wake up every day. What we do every day – our work – shapes our health, happiness, well-being, and, of course, our pocketbook. Reimagining our work is fundamental, not a luxury, today.

Richard Leider, founder of Inventure – The Purpose Company, is the author of ten books, including three best sellers, which have sold over one million copies. Repacking Your Bags and The Power of Purpose are considered classics in the personal growth field. Richard’s PBS Special – The Power of Purpose – was viewed by millions of people across the U.S. His newest book, Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old?: The Path of Purposeful Aging will be available in 2021.

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