Corporations and governments are beginning to understand that people want to be productive throughout their life. Many companies still seem to think that employing you is like marrying you and if you leave it’s a divorce – but it’s not! People will want to come in and out of the workforce – not just to care for children, but to take a break or to retrain.

These transitional states will be much more important in the future. Our transitions used to be around full-time education, full-time work, and full-time retirement. Our MBA students will design their own careers and have different transitions. We know that more women will be working and people will live longer but some things are harder to predict. We don’t know how long it will take for men to take more responsibility for bringing up their children, for instance.

Governments need to realise that making transitions is part of being a productive human. We need to help people anticipate what the future is. In Singapore, right now, every citizen is given a sum of money to spend on their learning. AT&T in the US is making an investment in every single one of its employees in lifelong learning. As inequality rises, corporations and governments will need to focus on the social agenda and intervene.

Many of our parents didn’t have to make many choices about how they worked but we have the opportunity to determine what kind of lives we live. As individuals we should think about our intangible assets: develop our skills, maintain our reputation, and build great relationships. We need to learn how to transform ourselves. And we need to bring being human back into work. That means giving people more time to be creative – to reflect, explore, be inquisitive.

Author: Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice, London Business School