In the previous post in this series of four, we discovered that a healthy work-life balance is one of three important components to healthy workplace well-being, the other two being a sense of purpose (doing meaningful work that makes a difference) and fulfillment in the workplace, and we established that you need all three of them if you are to find true workplace well-being.
In this post we are going to look at finding purpose and doing meaningful work in the workplace, define what it is and why it’s important, and we’ll show you how to create a sense of purpose at work, whether you are working in an office setting or working from home.
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What Is ‘Purpose’ In The Workplace?
A donkey is being ridden by a man dangling a carrot in front of it. As the donkey is moving forwards to reach the carrot, it is also striving to get away from the ‘go faster’ stick in the man’s other hand.
The ‘carrot and stick’ is a classic punishment and reward strategy, and it is still surprisingly popular today, even in modern companies.
But does it really result in motivation? Are employees really motivated by an almost unattainable prize and driven towards progress by the fear of punishment for failure?
Is money the great motivator?
A higher purpose is not about an exchange of money for labour. It reflects something more aspirational. It explains how people try to make a difference, it gives them a sense of meaning and draws their support to do meaningful work.
Beyond titles, salary, and perks, purpose-driven workers seek fulfillment through a sense of deep meaning and connection to the work they do. Today’s talent is attracted to companies whose values match their own. They seek career paths in which they are given the chance to give back, solve real problems and make a difference, proving that they have a purpose beyond making profit.
The self-styled Fempire coach and marketing consultant, Katie De Jong in her blog post Are You Ready for the Emerging Purpose Economy? says that:
In the new Purpose Economy, win-win solutions are the new commodity of value
Katie De Jong - Fempire CoAcH
It’s no longer enough to simply go to work to pay the bills, or to view work as a means to an end. We spend such a large percentage of our waking lives working that more and more people are realising they need these three things in the workplace:
- 1Engaging work that’s meaningful. We want to feel as though our work MATTERS
- 2Connection: To each other, and connection to our sense of purpose
- 3Authentic self-expression and personal growth
This post is the third of four, in which we will be delving into how to find purpose in your working life, whether you are working in the office or working from home. In the other posts in the series, we discover how to find true workplace well-being, how to find a good work-life balance, and how to find fulfillment in your career.
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Why Is Meaningful Work Important In The Workplace?
Many people go through their working lives feeling unmotivated and under-appreciated, but push it to the back of their mind so they can get through the 9-5 to make the money they need to support their family or do something more rewarding in their own time. This is unsustainable. Unhappy employees lose motivation and stop fulfilling their potential.
Conversely, people who share their company’s wider goals are happier, more engaged, and more creative. From the company’s perspective, when employees are engaged in meaningful work, staff turnover decreases and productivity rises. People work harder, use their initiative, and the company operates more efficiently.
Tanveer Naseer, in his blog post Making The Case For Creating Meaningful Work, says:
Employees need our help to identify and connect with what matters
Tanveer Naseer - Leadership Expert
Although employees are certain of the value, importance, and positive impact doing meaningful work would have on their career and personal lives, most of them haven’t yet discovered what they should be doing to derive that sense of purpose.
Here are the main reasons why a sense of purpose and doing meaningful work is important in the workplace:
- Recognition and reward
- Involve staff in decision-making
- The employee experience
- The customer experience
- Motivating employees to work with purpose
- Purpose-driven life and purpose-driven work synergise
Recognition and reward
Pay alone is not a great motivator. Praise, recognition, encouragement, thanks and acknowledgement are greater motivators, and work becomes much more meaningful as a result.
Secrecy leads to distrust and is bad for morale. Practice open, transparent communication and share information with everyone across the organisation.
Involve staff in decision-making
Micromanagement is the enemy of purpose. Include your employees in decisions and give them the space they need to get the job done to help them feel like they are making a valuable contribution. Give them a sense of ownership and responsibility over the work they do.
The employee experience
The employee experience should be one of doing more of what they do best and enjoy most at work, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose. Typically, when an employee is driven towards doing purposeful, meaningful work, performance of both the employee and the company improves.
The customer experience
To gain a greater understanding of their purpose, employees need to understand why their work matters to the end-user, and how and why they fit in to the big picture. Remind them of the importance of their work and of the positive difference their work makes to the lives of others.
Motivating employees to work with purpose
When employees believe that they are doing meaningful work, they tackle problems and challenges with passion and purpose. As a result, determination and resiliency grows, and they become self-motivated.
Purpose-driven life and purpose-driven work synergise
Create a foundation on which work can improve life and life can improve work. This sets the basis for positive change on the communities your business aims to impact.
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How Do You Create A Purpose At Work?
Ultimately, who is responsible for fostering a sense of purpose in the workplace?
A company cannot push a purpose onto an employee who has no interest in it. Neither can an employee insist on a purpose that does not match any of the company’s business or community goals.
This is why a Greenpeace activist would never work for an oil company, and an anti-smoker would never work for a tobacco company. They just don’t fit, no matter how much the company is willing to pay them!
Clearly, then, the responsibility is shared by both parties. The greatest sense of purpose comes when the company connects what the employee does to the impact they are having and when the employee engages fully and freely. This will likely result in higher performance and productivity, but also overall levels of happiness and job satisfaction.
Here are 6 ways in which companies can build a sense of purpose into their employees’ work lives:
- Connect what employees do to the impact of their work
- Create opportunities to learn and grow
- Uncover strengths and motivations
- Connect personal drivers with business goals
- Build a positive work environment
- Use feedback to boost positivity
Purpose and Meaningful Work - why the failure of the carrot and stick method of management makes us all better people. #workplacewellbeing #worklifebalance #worklife #purpose #fulfillment
Connect what employees do to the impact of their work
Most employees want to feel like they are doing meaningful work. By creating a sense of purpose in what they do, companies can help employees find the motivation to engage with their jobs so that what they do in their personal life is no different from what they do in their work life.
Create opportunities to learn and grow
Employees should feel like they matter enough to their organisation that it invests in their training and education in the company. Employees who engage in learning feel more competent and confident in their abilities and are more prepared to take on innovative and challenging tasks.
Uncover strengths and motivations
To help them find greater personal satisfaction in their work, encourage team members to explore their strengths and discover the tasks and responsibilities that bring them the greatest happiness and meaning. Try to give them more of what motivates them and less of what demotivates them.
Connect personal drivers with business goals
Encourage employees to reflect on how they can connect their personal motivations with those of the business. Are they interesting in teaching and learning? Then perhaps they might like to be a part of your community outreach programme. Are they interested in the environment? If your company has an environmental welfare group, they might like to play a part there.
Build a positive work environment
Encourage employees to socialise in and out of work. Give them more autonomy, and provide learning and career development opportunities. Promote values such as integrity and honesty by praising and rewarding those that demonstrate them.
Use feedback to boost positivity
Providing regular feedback and sharing stories from customers reminds employees how they are making a positive difference. This can be a powerful way to inspire employees, and to keep them connected with the people they are helping.
Finding Purpose When Working From Home
When you work from home, it is not enough to simply take your work from the office to the home office. You need to shift your focus from ‘location’ to ‘purpose’. This can sometimes be a difficult task.
When you are working remotely, what is it that motivates you to open your laptop, start working, focus, create and produce day after day, year after year? If you don’t know the answer, you might like to find your ikigai.
Ikigai is a Japanese term that encapsulates your motivation, aspiration, passion and production all in one. It is the reason you get out of bed in the morning and the reason you keep going year after year.
Ikigai forces you to consider four fundamental questions: What do I love? What am I good at? What can I get paid for?, and What does the world need? The intersection of these four components will lead you closer to your ikigai – your reason for being.
Here's what Ian Hathaway, writer and entrepreneur says in his post Follow Your Ikigai:
This framework has given me remarkable and immediate clarity
Ian Hathaway - Writer & Entrepreneur
There are plenty of interesting things to do in this world, but what matters most to me is the people I’m doing it with.
This people-centric priority tells me that I need to focus intensely not on whether I love my work or whether the world needs it, but instead, on working with people I love who need and value me
When you are looking to find purpose in the home office, all the above aspects are still relevant, but here are six more tips that are specific for those working remotely:
- Results driven working
- Purpose driven working
- Flexible employees – from ‘location’ to ‘purpose’
- Flexible management – from fear to trust
- Ergonomic home offices
Home Office Tip
The 4 elements of finding your ikigai:
What You Love
What You Are Good At
What The World Needs
What You Can Be Paid For
Results driven working
Traditionally, outcomes have been measured in terms of hours spent in the office and bums on seats. Purpose comes from taking the focus off the hours and location, and placed on being productive, where meaningful work delivers meaningful results.
Purpose driven working
When working from home, employees have many more distractions. Working towards a meaningful purpose by doing meaningful work ensures they retain focus and a drive to be self-motivated.
Flexible employees – from ‘location’ to ‘purpose’
Remote working brings great flexibility and the opportunity to fit your work around your life but only with the right motivation. Working from home can be very isolating, but working towards a meaningful goal typically results in an increase in productivity and innovation.
Flexible management – from fear to trust
Employees will respond differently to working from home and managers must be more trusting and learn the skills to listen, be curious and ask questions. They must also be patient, adaptive and innovative, embracing new ways of working and new technology.
Collaboration and team working can be difficult away from the office, and quieter team members become quieter still. Less vocal team members should be encouraged to speak out more than usual to ensure they don’t become isolated. Diverse teams with different voices do better, and those differences must be appreciated and encouraged.
Ergonomic home offices
Modern companies spend a lot of time and money on ergonomic office space. The home offices of the future will be given as much attention, organised and crafted into places that inspire. Why not get started today? What can you do to your home office to make it a place for inspiration and innovation?
Purpose and Meaningful Work: Summary
We are no longer happy to go to work, clock on, clock off and pick up our paychecks at the end of the month, and we don’t want to see our employer using the carrot and stick method of management. We are striving for more.
We want to know that our employer’s goals and ambitions match our own, and that we are not forced to apply one set of principles at work and an opposing set in our personal lives. That creates a tension that is unrealistic and unsustainable.
We discovered that if you believe in your employer’s goals you would be more connected to the impact of your work. But do you know what you truly believe in? If not, you might like to find your ikigai.
This is a term that encapsulates your motivation, aspiration, passion and production in one, and is your reason for being; the thing that motivates you to get out of bed every morning day after day, year after year.
OK, so now we have discovered how to find work-life balance and purpose, but how about fulfillment?
This is the focus of the next blog post in the series, and is where we are going now.
And now it's your turn.
What's your favourite tip for finding purpose in the home office? Tell me in the comments!