People work on average 90,000 hours over the course of their lifetime. We often spend more time at work than we do with our own family and friends. Despite dedicating a large portion of our lives to our careers many people experience a disconnect and feel their jobs lack meaning.
But what is meaning at work and what does this mean for your business?
‘Meaning at work’ refers to someone’s work environment, such as their team or the organisations purpose. Whereas ‘meaningful work’ refers to the purpose or significant value the work task provides an individual.
When someone finds meaning at work there is a knock on effect of benefits at the personal and corporate level.
COVID-19 has forced many of us to reconsider the way we live our lives and also the jobs we work. This study found more than half of employees in the US said they are re-evaluating their jobs because of the pandemic. This is put into context once we understand that 70% of employees in this study said their sense of purpose is defined by their work.
This blogpost will firstly explore the benefits of finding meaning in your work and career. Next it will explore how companies benefit from this. Finally, we will answer two questions. How can you find meaning at your work? How can you cultivate meaning at work?
This blogpost will help give you and your team practical insights into how you can start living your purpose.
Why is it important to find meaning in your work?
Finding meaning in your work has a variety of benefits for you both professionally and personally – it even has the possibility of transforming your life!
Those who find meaning in their jobs are often more engaged and committed to their work. They also have a higher chance of being promoted and occupy leadership positions. When you find meaning at work, it enables you to give your full potential by working in the Stretch Zone, where growth happens.
Finding meaning in your work also benefits your mental health. Studies have shown that when someone believes their work has meaning it provides a sense of fulfilment and purpose which produces a psychological sense of well-being. This perception flows into other areas of an individual’s life, which connects with the bigger question: what is the meaning of life? If you are unsure what your life meaning or purpose is, finding meaning in your job is a great place to start.
How do businesses benefit from employees who find meaning in their work?
Research shows that companies where workers feel their jobs have purpose and view their work as meaningful are more motivated, happier and more productive.
A team member finding meaning in their work not only benefits the individual but also the wider business. When a team member finds meaning in their daily work tasks they are able to work Full On.
Team alignment and cohesion is another positive effect. When a team member feels a sense of meaning in the work they do they are more likely to want to support their colleagues so they can feel the same. Team members like this will be committed to cultivating a positive work environment so the business can thrive. This is possible as they understand how they contribute to the company’s bigger purpose.
When your team members have meaning at work they will also be less likely to want to leave the company so employee retention will increase. Team members who find meaning at work experience a greater sense of job satisfaction. Research has proven that higher levels of job satisfaction incentivise people to work longer hours and take fewer sick days. This equates to productivity gains for the company that averages out to $9,000 per employee per year.
So how can you find meaning in your work?
Now you know the benefits of finding meaning in your work for yourself, your team and company you are probably wondering how can I find meaning in my work?
According to a YouGov Poll, only 50% of people with a full-time job in the UK were ‘entirely sure’ that their job made any sort of meaningful contribution to the world. While 37% of people were certain it did not. This is significant as a disconnect from your work and team can have a multitude of negative effects. For example, lack of engagement, low morale and the production of low quality work.
There are many ways in which you can begin to find meaning in your work, such as using the Japanese concept of Ikigai. ‘Iki’ in Japanese means life and ‘gai’ describes value or worth. Ikigai relates to what brings you joy and inspires you to get out of bed everyday; your life purpose. This concept has been adapted in the West to help people find their perfect career. It includes four qualities:
- What you love
- What you are good at
- What you can be paid for
- What the world needs
Reflect on these questions and see if your current job ticks off these four qualities. Or use these questions as a framework to help you in your job search.
Alternatively, you can reflect on what your core beliefs, values and passions are. Also shifting your perspective can alter how you view your job and its value to you.
How You Can Create A Meaningful Workplace For Your Team
From a leader’s perspective, the thought of having to generate meaning in the workplace for your team members could seem unimportant or a task that doesn’t seem to concern you.
However, this could not be further from the truth. Research shows that 79% of business leaders believe that purpose is central to business success and to an organisation’s existence; yet only 34% agree that purpose is a guidepost for leadership decision-making.
The desire and action of creating a more meaningful work environment is crucial to the success and sustainability of a business. If this is not created employee turnover is more likely to increase. This is because your team members will feel less engaged and disconnected from the company’s vision.
Here are a few ways you can create meaning in the workplace:
- Explaining how each role connects to the businesses mission and values. Such as showing employees the impact their daily tasks have on their customers or clients through testimonials or face-to-face interactions.
- Encourage team members to get to know one another better by providing resources and time. Gallup research shows that employees who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be highly engaged at work than those who don’t. Read our blog post on how you can develop healthy work relationships here.
- Clearly communicating the aims and values of the company with which employees can identify with.
- Curating and developing team bonds through group rituals such as weekly lunches. Studies have shown that performing a group bonding activity led to a 16% increase in how meaningful employees judged their work to be. By carrying out these rituals, employees are also more likely to go the extra mile for their companies. Research has highlighted humans are fundamentally hard-wired to connect collectively because our ancestors depended on each other for survival.
- Involve your staff in as much decision making as possible for them to feel like valuable contributors.
It is possible for all of us to have meaningful careers and discover meaning in our jobs. It just takes time, commitment and reflection. The good thing to know is you can start now!
You are now equipped with a better understanding of how valuable having meaning is at work. Meaning not only impacts yourself but also the business as a whole. This understanding will now support you in making a positive impact in both your professional and personal life.
Reflect on your own professional reality, does your current job provide you with a sense of meaning? Does your company’s purpose and values align with your own? Do you feel your contributions at work make a meaningful difference in the world? Use these questions as prompts to begin your own self discovery journey into finding a career full of meaning.