WeWork Got One Thing Right: Reimagining Work
In a previous blog, we wrote about two key failings of the fizzled WeWork IPO. In this article, we discuss what the company got right—attempting to rewrite the rules for work to better fit the needs and expectations of modern workers. Even with the right goal, however, WeWork ultimately fails to reach it. The only way to truly align work with human flourishing is to understand and apply a biblical framework.
Given everything we know about WeWork and its CEO’s unusual leadership style, some may wonder what in the world investors saw in the company to warrant a valuation of $47 billion. Sam Walker, writing in the Wall Street Journal, has a plausible explanation:
For about a decade, the business world has been bracing for the arrival of what might best be described as the “Millennial Prophet.” At a time when young, brash, visionary CEOs have disrupted nearly everything, it only seems logical that one of them will solve the biggest challenge of all—reinventing work itself.
Mr. Walker goes on to explain how Henry Ford ushered in the modern concept of a 40-hour work week and why it no longer suits today’s workers. Study after study consistently shows us that younger workers want a meaningful job, not just a nice paycheck. And they’re willing to change jobs frequently in search of the perfect fit. All this change costs companies and the economy.
According to Mr. Walker, “Mr. Neumann may not be the Millennial Prophet, but it’s easy to understand why investors might have tolerated, or even appreciated his quirks and grand ambitions.” Everyone, it seems, is hungry for a reimagined concept of work where humans find community, fulfillment, and success.
Mr. Walker ultimately resigns himself to the conclusion “that there simply isn't any profitable way to turn offices into human fulfillment zones. Maybe the problem with work is that no matter how you dress it up, it’s still work.”
Unless we understand how humans were designed and the purpose for work, we can never truly achieve this grand goal. By renewing our theology of work, we can better realize the power of business to serve as winsome witnesses of the Gospel, creatively demonstrating our faith by being part of the solution.
Our work—whether as accountants, pilots, artists, homemakers, gardeners, or lawyers—has unique and intrinsic value as a means of worshipping our Creator. As Tim Keller teaches, "All well-done work that serves the good of human beings pleases God." Man's earliest call/invitation/job - before the fall - was to join God in creation by giving the plants and animals names and tending the garden. Thus, all work done in obedient surrender is a form of worship.
After the fall, our work is the means by which we partner with God in His work of renewing all things.
The Christian faith gives us a new conception of work as the means by which God loves and cares for his world through us. Look at the places in the Bible that say that God gives every person their food. How does God do that? It is through human work—from the simplest farm girl milking the cows to the truck driver bringing produce to market to the local grocer. God could feed us directly but he chooses to do it through work.
Think about that. Read it again. The God of the Universe chooses US - YOU AND ME - to be the way He feeds us, clothes us and provides for human flourishing. Our work, surrendered to Him, has great power for Good. For more reading on this topic, please check out Tom Nelson's book "Work Matters".
This is hugely important because if we develop a robust theology of work, we will have a tremendous opportunity to build businesses that stand as demonstrated apologetics for the Gospel. WeWork proves the world is hungry for it.