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Meaningful work: precondition for vitality and happiness

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People with full-time jobs spend a large part of their lives - over 80,000 hours – at work. Besides being a way to earn money, work is also an important source of fulfillment, meaning and identity. But what makes a job meaningful? Work is particularly meaningful when you feel that the purpose of the organization and the work corresponds with your own ideals or standards and when your talents, qualities and interests match the job requirements.

Research shows that meaningful work (work in which you experience that you are meaningful to someone else based on your values and talents) is a predictor of well-being at work and beyond (Van Wingerden & Van der Stoep, 2017). Besides being a predictor of vitality and inspiration among employees, meaningful work also acts as a predictor for happiness in life. Furthermore, the positive power of meaningful work acts as a buffer against burnout. Meaningful work thus creates the basis for positive and healthy work.

Precondition for organizational success

Meaningful work not only benefits employees, organizations are also better off. Research shows that it contributes to retaining well-performing employees, the ability to change, involvement in the organization and the overall performance. Companies aiming to increase their success rates and results should first look more closely at how work is experienced in their own organizations. To what extent do employees experience their work as meaningful? And do leadership, policy and procedures contribute to meaningful work?

Starting point

Basically, meaningful work starts with the recruitment and selection of employees. The alignment of personal values with those of the organization, as well as work matching the abilities, interests and objectives of people are key selection criteria in that respect. If individual values and objectives are too distant from the organizational values and objectives, this will eventually lead to dissatisfaction and/or personal conflict. Not only does this undermine the manner in which meaningful work is experienced, ultimately it will also affect well-being and performance too.

Facilitating meaningful work based on 5 preconditions

Through leadership and policy, organizations can facilitate meaningful work based on of 5 preconditions: clarity, authenticity, respect, recognition and autonomy.

  1. Show a clear vision of the team and organizational objectives (clarity).
  2. Be reliable, practice what you preach and propagate the organizational values (authenticity).
  3. Build and maintain positive and high-quality relationships (respect).
  4. Show recognition and appreciation to employees for their contribution to team and organizational objectives (recognition).
  5. Delegate decisions about the work when possible (autonomy).

Interested in meaningful work? Click this link to download the article “The Role of Meaningful Work in Employees’ Work-related and General Well-being”, free of charge.

This acticle was previously published by Schouten & Nelissen on 20-10-2017

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