Work and Health: What Does the Future Hold?

Anticipating the future of work to advance health equity.

A cabinetry apprentice working in a wood shop.

The way we work is changing rapidly, from where and when we work, to what jobs we do and how we’re compensated. The next 5 to15 years will bring about even more transformation.

These changes will have major implications for health equity and well-being—after all, work and health are closely connected, providing income and benefits that can enable us to lead healthy lifestyles, and the social connections and sense of purpose that help us to thrive.

Over the years, jobs have shifted from manual labor to knowledge and service work—from steady Monday-through-Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. work hours to 24/7 or on-demand schedules, and from salaried jobs with benefits to gig and freelance work.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has accelerated many of these changes, and illuminated the health and economic inequities experienced by people working essential jobs, such as grocery store clerks, transit operators and janitors—jobs that are more often held by people of color.

As the nature and structure of work continues to evolve, RWJF is looking to the future by exploring questions such as:

  • How will the jobs of the future impact the health and well-being of people, their families, and their communities?
  • What changes in work hours and location, salaries and benefits could make it easier or more challenging for everyone to lead a healthy life and have a healthy family in the future?
  • What policies need to change or be established to create an anti-racist workplace and advance health equity tomorrow?

With our support, researchers and other innovators are offering insights, lessons and solutions to these questions—and helping us all see what it will take to build a future where all jobs, in every way possible, support our efforts to live our healthiest lives.


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