Making work meaningful

Organisations can improve performance by focusing on four key 'energy' needs of employees.

"Deriving a sense of meaning and significance from their work had the highest single impact of any variable in the survey. Employees who did find meaning in their work also reported being 2.8 times more likely to stay with their organisation, 2.2 times more satisfied with their jobs, and 93% more engaged."

Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project asked readers of Harvard Business Review to respond to a survey about their quality of life at work.  He asked questions about workload; organisational and personal traits; sleep patterns; health; exercise and job satisfaction.   The findings from 20,000 respondents around world identified four key needs for people at work:

  • Physical health – to be able to rest and renew themselves
  • Emotional happiness – to feel cared for and valued
  • Mental focus – to be empowered to set boundaries and focus
  • Spiritual purpose – to find meaning and purpose in work

The findings show that even by meeting just one of these four needs, employees can drastically improve employee engagement and loyalty.

Interesting statistics from the research:

  • Only 49% of employees take more than one break every day
  • Employees who take a short break every 90 minutes report 40% increase in creative thinking and a 28% increase in focus
  • Employees who work 55+ hours a week are 21% less engaged than those who work 40 hours or less
  • Only 34% of respondents felt connected to their organisation's mission

Recommendations for managers and leaders

  • Leaders must model and encourage sustainable working - i.e. encourage workers to take a break/exercise etc
  • Treating employees with respect, appreciating them and remaining positive and optimistic can all help improve emotional wellbeing at work
  • It is critical to communicate a clear, consistent and inspiring vision for the organisation. 

Download the Energy Project report here.