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What workers want

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What workers want

“What makes a good job, good? As a society, we get to decide what life looks like for working people. We can make jobs better, or we can make them worse. We can give people more dignity or less.”Purple and pink graduated background roundel with the wording, 'what is important to them when it comes to work?'

During his college years in the early ‘70s, right around the time Barack Obama was figuring out his future, he came across the book, ‘Working’, by Studs Terkel which investigated the meaning of work for different people.

It was at the peak of a new era of automation. A profits-obsessed corporate culture was taking hold. And the cycle is repeating. As Obama states, “50 years later, we’re in another moment of explosive change, with AI, remote work, spiralling inequality. It can be hard to make sense of where we are and where we’re going.” 

Obama decided it was a good time to pick up Stud’s project for this moment to discover the motivations and ambitions of ordinary people today. 

In the Netflix series, ‘Working: What We Do All Day’, he questions, “Is it the pay check, the schedule, the stability? What does a good job actually look like now?”

We were keen to hear more on this too, so we followed the touching stories of those featured in this poignant docuseries and noted what was important to them when it comes to work:


Personal impactPurple and pink graduated background roundel with the wording 'when you're doing something you want to do that pays you a FAIR WAGE your mind unlocks - Brandon'

“There are many things I could do to put food on the table. So I started thinking about my impact,” says Karthik, a robotics engineer for a self-driving car company. “I thought about how much influence was important to me and how this would guide my choices. In a larger company you’re a drop in the ocean, in a smaller place the decisions you make impact the future of the entire company.”


Job satisfaction

Brandon, from vehicle dispatch at the same organisation admits he’s drawn to, “a well-paying job with free lunches and a ton of snacks!” But he also adds, “when you’re doing something you want to do that pays you a fair wage, your mind unlocks.”


Connection with leadership

“We’re a growing business. We’ve been fuelling the rocket ship, and now it’s time to launch,” adds Karthik. “This is exciting, but as we’ve grown, my interactions with the founders are a lot less. Previously we’d be in joint meetings together but access to these people has gone as we’ve scaled. It’s hard for me.”



Purple and pink graduated background roundel with the wording, 'A good job is somewhere you're happy and you still have TIME TO BE A PERSON. Where you can enjoy life - Carmen.'

“I’m not young and I’m not old. I have all the time, but I’m also running out of time. I thought about working in a car plant, but I wanted to wake up every day with some sense of meaning.” It’s rewarding when you get to meet new people and hear new stories, when you can provide other people with peace and harmony,” explains Randi, a home care aide. “That’s my dream.”


Work life balance  

“Nobody tells you what it’s going to be like once you’ve walked across that stage and got your diploma.” Carmen took the initiative and pursued a career in dentistry but after seriously damaging her knee, she struggled to maintain this and joined the gig economy, battling to pay the bills as a part-time delivery driver for Uber Eats. Her end goal is to become a professional makeup artist and she’s clear on what a decent job looks like, “A good job is somewhere where you’re happy and you still have time to be a person. Where you can enjoy life.”


A sense of community

Francois, a hotel general manager explains, “My job is not about being the expert at everything. My job is putting the right team together, ensuring the right culture, leading by example. At the end of the day, what really makes the difference to me is the people who work here.”


IndependencePurple and pink graduated background roundel with the wording, 'At the end of the day, what really makes the difference to me is the PEOPLE who work here - Francois'

“I don’t worry about money because I know I can count on my paycheck.” Elba, a hotel housekeeper says, “I’m proud of myself because I don’t have to depend on anyone else to survive.”


Giving back

Chandra is the Chairman of Tata Group Mumbai. He explains that, “Two thirds of the profits from our companies flows back to Tata trusts. It’s one of the largest philanthropic trusts anywhere in the world. Our founder declared, ‘What comes from people should go back to people multiple times over’. This ethos is deeply embedded in the functioning of the Tata Group. You see it in the employees, the way the companies engage with the community, the way the communities engage with the company and also what they expect of the company.”


Leaving a legacy

Kenny, a Lobbyist representing a home care agency summarises with, “In three to five years I’ll be retired. But I’ve still got a little life left to live… So, if you can look back and know that you’ve done what you said you were going to do for your client, it makes you feel good about what you’ve achieved.”


So, what do workers want? All of this, and more.

As Obama concludes,

“A good job is one where we feel seen and valued, and where we might even have a chance to grow.”

So, rather than putting all of our efforts into the corporate priorities of exec teams and C-suites, why don’t we flip the narrative, and focus instead on what workers really want?


Caroline Roodhouse for Alive!

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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