50 episodes

Economists say the way we work has become so stressful it’s now the fifth leading cause of death. Our mission is to find a better way. Explore the art and science of living a full and healthy life with behavioral and social science researchers who can help us better understand what drives our human experiences, and how to change. Better Life Lab is a co-production from New America and Slate.

Better Life Lab New America

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.5 • 216 Ratings

Economists say the way we work has become so stressful it’s now the fifth leading cause of death. Our mission is to find a better way. Explore the art and science of living a full and healthy life with behavioral and social science researchers who can help us better understand what drives our human experiences, and how to change. Better Life Lab is a co-production from New America and Slate.

    The Future of Wellbeing in an Automated World

    The Future of Wellbeing in an Automated World

    This season of Better Life Lab, we’ve been taking a close look at work stress and the future of work and wellbeing. 
    Parts of the American economy are looking tough for many workers — even “dystopian. People are quitting their jobs at record rates.
    We know what many of the problems are. Yet the fixes are not so simple. So on this closing episode of our fourth season, we ask: Are bad jobs an inherent part of the workplace — or can we actually do what it takes to make the jobs of the future good jobs, big enough to support real human life for all of us?

    Rep. Jim Himes, D-Ct, chair of the House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth

    Zeynep Ton, founder, Good Jobs Institute

    Warren Valdmanis, private equity investor and partner with Two Sigma Impact, who will only invest in companies that provide good jobs


    What if Progress meant Wellbeing for All?, The Metropolitan Group

    Making wellbeing a policy priority. Lessons from the 2021 World Happiness Report, Carol Graham, Brookings, 2021

    The Business Roundtable Redefines the Purpose of a Corporation to Promote an Economy that Serves All, 2019

    Hearing Recap: Our Changing Economy: The Effects of Technological Innovation, Automation and the Future of Work, House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, Nov. 2021

    Economists pin more blame on tech for inequality, New York Times, January 2022

    • 46 min
    The New Unemployment

    The New Unemployment

    Being unemployed in the United States is bad for you. 
    It’s bad for your mental, physical and emotional health. Bad for your family stability. Bad for your ability to survive. 
    It’s just bad news, period.
    The research shows that 83 percent of laid-off workers develop a serious stress-related condition. And as we look at the future of work, that’s a problem for the American economy. Because one of the big questions about the American workplace is:What if, in the a future, we actually have less work … and more unemployment?

    Kiarica Shields, hospice nurse in Georgia who lost her job early in the pandemic, and eventually lost her home and her car. Her unemployment insurance stopped inexplicably, and after she her appeal, she was told she was ineligible for coverage because she worked a single day on another job. 

    Mark Attico  - furloughed at the start of the pandemic in his job planning business travel. Was on unemployment for months, and with the pandemic supplement his income was actually enough to pay his bills, and gave him time to reconnect with his teenage son - and hold out for a better job that fit his skills and paid well.

    Dorian Warren, co-president of Community Change.

    Sarah Damaske, author of The Tolls of Uncertainty: How Privilege and the Guilt Gap Shape Unemployment in America.


    Reforming Unemployment Insurance: Stabilizing a system in crisis and laying the foundation for equity, A joint project of Center for American Progress, Center for Popular Democracy, Economic Policy Institute, Groundwork Collaborative, National Employment Law Project, National Women’s Law Center, and Washington Center for Equitable Growth, June, 2021

    A Playbook for Improving Unemployment Insurance Delivery, New America New Practice Lab, 2021

    A Plan to Reform the Unemployment Insurance System in the United States, Arindrajit Dube, The Hamilton Project, April 2021 

    How Does Employment, or Unemployment, Affect Health, RWJF, 2013 

    Single transitions and persistence of unemployment are associated with poor health outcomes, Herber et al, 2019

    The Toll of job loss, Stephanie Pappas, American Psychological Association, 2020

    • 36 min
    Is America Ready for a Guaranteed Basic Income?

    Is America Ready for a Guaranteed Basic Income?

    Michael Tubbs grew up in poverty. And when, at 26, he was elected mayor of his hometown, he decided to do something about it.
    And what he did in Stockton, California, no American mayor had done before. He started giving poor people cash. No strings attached.
    Stockton’s pilot program in Guaranteed Basic Income started lifting people out of poverty. It gave parents more time with their kids. And it was actually cost-effective.
    So as we look to the Future of Work and Wellbeing, could Guaranteed Basic Income programs play a central role in lifting all of us up — and boosting the standard of life for all Americans?

    Michael Tubbs, elected mayor of Stockton, California in 2016 at the age of 26 — the youngest mayor in the country. He is known nationally for establishing the first city-led Guaranteed Basic Income program in America, which has inspired dozens of other cities across the country to try similar programs. Having lost his re-election bid in 2020, Tubbs recently founded the nonprofit End Poverty in California.

    Natalie Foster, co-founder, co-director Economic Security Project, which worked closely with Tubbs on Stockton’s Guaranteed Basic Income program

    John Summers, participant in pilot guaranteed basic income program Cambridge RISE in Massachusetts.


    Stockton’s Basic Income Experiment Paid Off, Annie Lowrey, The Atlantic

    The Potential for a Guaranteed Income: A Conversation with Four Mayors, New America California, 2021.

    The Future of Leisure, Stuart Whatley, Democracy Journal, 2012

    The Evolving Concept of Time for Work, Leisure, Pew Research, 2008

    Less Work and More Leisure: Utopian Visions and the Future of Work, CBC Radio, 2018

    • 36 min


    PTSD. Burnout. Depression. That’s what you get from a too stressful workplace. And — employers take note — you also get reduced commitment to work, and much higher costs.
    As workplaces have navigated the COVID pandemic, new technologies have amped those stresses to 11. Bossware. Tattleware. After-hours nastiness on Slack. Now there’s a whole different kind of “technostress” wearing on warehouse and retail workers, whose every movement is tracked and rated by algorithms.
    Researchers are only beginning to study the impact “technostress” has on workers, from toxic interpersonal relationships to “email apnea” Tech is here to stay — but how can we foster healthier, less “technostress”-inducing work cultures? 

    Roxanne Felig, doctoral student at the University of South Florida, who was cyber bullied online after publishing her first major research paper — and publicizing it on TikTok.

    Adrian Ugalde, retail worker at a big box store in LA

    Maddie Swenson, who quit her remote job as a creative director because of the stress of being monitored with Bossware.

    Ashley Nixon, Associate Professor of Human Resource Management and Organizational Behavior at Willamette University.


    Workplace Monitoring and Surveillance, Data and Society, 2019

    Technostress Dark Side of Technology in the Workplace: A Scientometric Analysis, Bondanini et al, 2020.

    Technostress: Implications for Adults in the Workplace, Atanasoff & Venable, 2017

    Workplace bullying jeopardizes employees’ life satisfaction: the roles of job anxiety and insomnia, Nauman, Malik & Jalil, 2019

    The Workplace-Surveillance Technology Boom, Natalie Chyi, New America Weekly, 2020

    Are you Breathing? Do you have email apnea? Linda Stone, 2014

    • 51 min
    Working While Black

    Working While Black

    The Civil Rights movement opened up new work opportunities for Black workers. But, decades later, African-Americans work disproportionately in low-wage jobs and are overrepresented in the jobs at highest risk of vanishing because of workplace automation.
    White workers, meanwhile, are 50 percent more likely to hold “future proof” jobs. These are the kind of jobs that build often on education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. And for those Black workers who do find a path to “future proof” jobs in health care or tech, the reward often includes a hostile work environment. And that’s bad news for every American. One study found that eliminating racial inequality could boost the U.S. economy by as much as $2.3 trillion a year. What are we waiting for?

    LeRon Barton, tech worker, author of two books, and essayist who has written “What It’s Like to be a Black man in Tech” and other pieces for the Harvard Business Review.

    Nahsis Davis, a nurse and union member in Chicago.

    Adia Harvey Wingfield, author of Flatlining: Race, Work and Healthcare in the New Economy, and professor of sociology at Washington University in St. Louis.


    What it’s Like to be a Black Man in Tech, LeRon Barton, Harvard Business Review, 2021

    Flatlining: Race, Work and Healthcare in the New Economy, Adia Harvey Wingfield.

    No More Invisible Man, Adia Harvey Wingfield.

    Race and the Work of the Future: Advancing Workforce Equity in the United States, PolicyLink, USC Dornsife, burning glass, National Fund for Workforce Solutions

    Why are Employment Rates so Low among Black men? Holzer, 2021

    Digitalization, Automation & Older Black Women: Ensuring Equity in the Future of Work - Chandra Childers, IWPR, 2019

    • 38 min
    Sleepless in the Gig Economy

    Sleepless in the Gig Economy

    With the advent of the New Deal, employers were expected to guarantee workers a measure of security — a fair wage, a reasonable number of hours, benefits like retirement and health insurance. Recent years have seen a rise in “non-standard” work arrangements — independent contractors and gig workers who work without benefits or job protections. Gig-work platforms offer workers the tantalizing promise of flexibility and freedom.
    Gig-work platforms make the tantalizing promise of flexibility and freedom. But that can come at a deceptively steep price for many gig workers: low and variable wages, unpredictable schedules, and paltry benefits. Trying to make a living this way is also enormously stressful —one study of gig workers found that the more employment insecurity they experienced during the day, the more their nights became fitful, sleepless and anxiety-ridden.

    Cherri Murphy, a pastor and former ride-share driver, now trying to organize workers with Gig Workers Rising.

    Quan D. Mai, an assistant professor of sociology at Rutgers University who has published several articles on the new normal of gig work.


    After the Gig: How the Sharing Economy got Hijacked, Bergguen Institute’s Future of Capitalism & the Platform Cooperativism Consortium 

    A Brief History of the Gig, Veena Dubal, 2020

    The battle for the future of “gig” work, Sarah Jaffe, Vox

    Rideshare Drivers United

    Why Precarious Work Is Bad for Health: Social Marginality as Key Mechanisms in a Multi-National Context, Macmillan, Shanahan, 2021

    Gig Economy in the U.S. – Statistics and Facts

    • 30 min

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5
216 Ratings

216 Ratings

Niua2003 ,

Great series

I first listened to the Karoshi episode and now I am hooked. Current & relabeled information. Like that it always ends with concrete suggestions for change.

Gotchayeah ,

Editing needs help

One of the recent episode sounded like a phone buzzing through the whole episode

RZ* ,

Important, interesting and well-done podcast

This is a great podcast series—worth your time. The new season about the future of work and well-being in America starts out with an informative (and a bit scary) discussion with an MIT economist. Host Brigid Schulte is knowledgeable, and a good interviewer. The past three seasons are also worth your time.

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