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First Psychology – Why a Sense of Purpose is Valuable in the Workplace

Posted: 21st January 2022

For many of us, we spend almost a quarter of our week working so when we’re doing a job without any sense of purpose, it can impact on our wellbeing. When we feel like we’re undertaking monotonous and repetitive tasks day-in, day-out, it can drain us of our mental and physical energy.

But a sense of purpose can mean different things to different people, depending on what motivates us or what gives us that feeling of fulfilment. Maybe you have an interest in a certain field that you’re passionate about and you want to feel as though you’re making a positive contribution towards a bigger goal. It’s these kinds of passions or interests that can influence our career choices in the first place.

Why do we need a sense of purpose?

Although you’ve probably experienced an unfulfilling job at some point in your life and you’ve craved for something more meaningful, there are also scientific studies that have shown how a sense of purpose can motivate us and create a barrier against stress and anxiety.

Some ways that having a sense of purpose can affect our health include:

  • When there’s greater meaning behind the work we do it can minimise stress-related illnesses such as anxiety, stress, depression, and high blood pressure. In turn, this means that we are less likely to take sick days from work.
  • By feeling like we are directing our energy towards something meaningful or a greater goal, we are more motivated and happier in our work.
  • Having an interest in or a reason for the work we do, gives us a sense of pride and encourages us to aim higher and achieve more. This means that we are more likely to be committed to our job.
  • Time feels like it goes faster when we’re doing a job that we get enjoyment or satisfaction out of. When time drags it can make us feel resentful and anxious about going to work.

In The McKinsey Podcast, Naina Dhingra explains how through her studies, she has found that “about 70 per cent of people say they define their purpose through work. And, actually, millennials, even more so, are likely to see their work as their life calling. So what this means is that people are looking for opportunities in the work they do day-to-day to be actually contributing to what they believe their purpose is.”

From these findings it’s important that both employees and employers are clear about the purpose of the company and the staff roles within it. By ensuring there’s a clearer understanding of each role, employees will feel like they have a sense of purpose, and this will ultimately create confidence within individuals. Be clear about how each role contributes to the bigger picture of the company and its mission. This way all workers, regardless of how big or small they feel their role is in the workplace, will know that they are making an important contribution, and this will not only boost their wellbeing, but it can also significantly increase their motivation and levels of commitment.

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Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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