Why is meaningful work important?

Füzes Nóra | psychologist, junior consultant

Füzes Nóra | psychologist, junior consultant

When you think about it, we actually spend almost a quarter of our fragile lives working. So it makes a difference how meaningful and significant we feel about the time and what we do. Why is finding meaning in work important for an individual and useful for a company? Read on and find out.

The person, life and work of Viktor E. Frankl, the famous Holocaust survivor, physician and philosopher, is living proof that

that even the most hopeless life situation can hold opportunity if we can find meaning in it.

Frankl’s therapeutic approach, called logotherapy, was developed along this line of thinking and vision of man after the Second World War and has since become almost a professional minimum in countless helping professions. But let’s look at what this means in terms of the world of work.

Meaningful work

Since the boundaries are very porous, since what is work for some is a hobby for others, it is a big task for anyone who tries to form a coherent concept of what work is. Especially what is meaningful work.

The answer could be very simple: it depends on each person.

Is meaningful work ‘an activity for which an individual receives financial compensation for his or her livelihood’? In which we can fulfil or exceed ourselves? In which we do good for others? All three can count as both meaningful and work, but let’s look at what psychology has to say about this.

After the 70’s, more and more disciplines, including psychology, started to address the issue of meaningfulness at work. A fairly recent study concluded that people most often find meaningful what they do:

– if the work has a clear purpose

– if there is some kind of collaboration

– if it has a positive impact on human relationships

– if there is some control and influence

– if it allows talent to be developed

– if it provides adequate financial security.

Now stop for a moment! Read through this list again and think (it doesn’t hurt to do so from time to time anyway): how are these things in my current job?

How does a job become meaningful?

The question is complicated, because what we consider meaningful or meaningful is related to certain individual and social or societal elements. For example, if certain professions are not considered meaningful by society (e.g. teaching), then individuals will find it harder to perceive them as such. The same is true in the opposite case, so working in a position that is valued by society (e.g. company director) will have a knock-on effect on our self-esteem and how we view our work.

It is important to see that a society’s judgement of certain professions is in no way evidence of how important, meaningful or significant a job really is.

No matter what anyone says, if we can find anything in our own job, profession or vocation that we can love and find meaningful in it, then we are demonstrably more likely to stick with our jobs, have better relationships with our colleagues, fewer complaints and better health.

This also shows how, overall, job and job satisfaction is closely related to how meaningful and meaningful an employee feels their own position and work is.

But why is it worth it for the company?

I think the answer is self-evident, since job satisfaction is closely related to efficiency and productivity, so a more satisfied employee will often work more, more efficiently and more creatively without being asked.

These are questions to ask yourself if:

If you are a company manager:

– What does meaningful work mean to me?

– How meaningful do employees feel their work is?

– What can I do to help them find more meaning in their work?

– Should I bring in outside help?

If you are an individual:

– What does meaningful work mean to me?

– From the above list, what do I feel is my own strength and weakness in my own work?

– What can I do to find more meaning in my work?

If you are about to leave your job:

– What does meaningful work mean to me?

– What am I looking for?

– What is my role in not finding enough meaning in my work?

– Could I change this?

Happy thinking!