9 out of 10 employees are willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work according to research on Meaning and Purpose at Work by BetterUp Labs. Why is that so? Because being engaged in meaningful work can lead to improved mental health and overall well-being, which can be more valuable than earning a higher salary.
How much is meaning worth to the individual employee?
The study found that 9 out of 10 professionals of different age and salary groups, across 26 industries and a range of company sizes, occupations and demographics are willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings if they could find a job that offered consistent meaning throughout their life. This implies they are willing to forego 23% of their entire future lifetime earnings in order to have a job that was always meaningful. To put this figure in perspective, consider that Americans spend about 21% of their incomes on housing, signifying that people are willing to spend more on meaningful work than on putting a roof over their heads.
“What I believe employees need, and what could provide employers the biggest return on investment, is Meaningful Work”Wes Adams, CEO of SV Consulting Group
Table of Contents
What is meaningful work?
Meaningful work is work that has a sense of purpose and allows individuals to use their skills and abilities in a way that is personally rewarding and contributes to a greater good. Meaningful work is often characterized by a sense of fulfillment, engagement, and satisfaction.
What constitutes meaningful work can vary from person to person, depending on their values, goals, and interests. For some individuals, meaningful work may involve making a difference in the lives of others, while for others it may involve pursuing a personal passion or interest.
However, there are several key characteristics that are often associated with meaningful work. These include:
- Purpose: Feeling that one’s work is meaningful and contributes to a larger goal or mission.
- Connection: Feeling a sense of connection and belonging with colleagues and/or the broader community.
What is the connection between mental health and meaningful work?
There is a strong connection between mental health and meaningful work. Research has shown that individuals who have meaningful work experience a range of mental health benefits. For example, a study published in the Journal of Career Assessment found that meaningful work was positively associated with life satisfaction, job satisfaction, and psychological well-being.
When individuals feel that their work has meaning, they are more likely to feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment in their lives. This can lead to increased feelings of self-worth, motivation, and happiness. Moreover, when individuals have positive mental health outcomes, they are more likely to be productive, engaged, and committed to their work.
Effects of working solely for money versus meaningful work
There are significant differences in the effects of working solely for money versus engaging in meaningful work.
When individuals work solely for money, they may not find their work fulfilling or may not feel that their work has a greater purpose. This can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction, lack of motivation, and increased stress. A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that individuals who work primarily for financial reasons report lower job satisfaction and higher levels of stress.
On the other hand, when individuals engage in meaningful work, they are more likely to experience positive mental health outcomes, such as increased life satisfaction, higher levels of motivation, and a greater sense of purpose.
Meaningful work can also have a positive impact on physical health. A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that individuals who engage in meaningful work report fewer physical health complaints.
While financial incentives are important for meeting basic needs, engaging in meaningful work can lead to a greater sense of fulfillment, purpose, and well-being, which can have positive effects on both mental and physical health.
How does meaningful work positively affect an organization’s bottom line?
Meaningful work can have several positive effects on an organization’s bottom line. When employees find their work to be meaningful, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work, which can lead to several benefits for the organization, including:
- Increased productivity: When employees find their work to be meaningful, they are more likely to be motivated to work harder and be more productive. This can lead to increased efficiency and output for the organization.
- Improved job satisfaction: When employees feel that their work has meaning, they are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs. This can lead to reduced turnover rates and lower costs associated with recruiting and training new employees.
- Greater creativity and innovation: When employees are engaged and committed to their work, they are more likely to be creative and innovative. This can lead to new ideas and solutions that can improve the organization’s products, services, or processes.
- Better customer service: When employees are committed to their work and find it meaningful, they are more likely to provide high-quality customer service. This can lead to increased customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth advertising.
- Improved reputation: When an organization is known for providing meaningful work, it can attract and retain top talent, which can enhance the organization’s reputation as an employer of choice.
“Providing meaningful work requires investing in employees at both the individual and cultural level. In the long run, both will pay dividends to a company’s bottom line in the form of talent retention and productivity.”Dr. Gabriella Rosen Kellerman BetterUp Chief Innovation Officer.
Work is not just about making a living, because it does not only consume a significant portion of our lives, but our mental space as well. If we are not liking it, our mental state will be messed up and that bad effect trickles down in one’s life and that is the beginning of mental health issues. On the contrary, if work is meaningful or something we deeply care about, then our mental chemistry will be that of joy, satisfaction and fulfillment and that eventually seeps into our life in general. Overall, meaningful work is an important factor in promoting well-being and a sense of purpose in life.
People finding meaning at work, give more deeply and freely to those organizations that provide it. Employees work harder and quit less, and they gravitate to supportive work cultures that help them grow. Meaningful work only has upsides to both individual employees finding meaning at work and organizations providing a meaningful work culture.