MEANINGFUL WORK - SHOULD WORK BE OUR WHOLE LIVES?

David Bott and Dr. Gavin Slemp  

meaningful work - large 

“To business that we love we rise betime, and go to’t with delight.”


As Antony tells a soldier in Shakespeare’s, Antony and Cleopatra, getting out of bed in the morning is pretty easy when you love what you do! And, the reverse, as we all know, is true too.

What does work mean to us?

In many ways, our ‘work’ may be considered the most important thing that we do. Consider the six domains of the Geelong Grammar School Model that contribute to human flourishing: Positive relationships; Positive Emotions, Positive health, Positive engagement, Positive accomplishment, Positive purpose.

It’s very easy to see how a typical day at work might significantly impact on each of these above domains – in turn fundamentally affecting our wellbeing. Sure, we engage in other regular behaviours and activities that are important but, as far as consistent, long-term, overall impact factors go, it’s hard to think of something we do that could possibly have more of a global impact on our sense of self, sense of connectedness and sense of meaning.

Consequently, it’s not surprising that the field of positive psychology has taken such an interest in trying to better understand the link between work and wellbeing.
Read the following three work orientations: Job, Career, and Calling.  Consider how closely each one describes your relationship to your work.

Job

You see your work as a means to an end and a basic necessity of life.  Work is essentially a way for you to earn a living, and also support your leisure and hobby activities.  If you had all the money in the world you would probably quit your current job and focus your energy elsewhere.

Career

You see your work as a way to obtain success or prestige. You are interested in moving up the ladder in your career and you want to progress your career as fast as you can. Having a prestigious career is very important to you.

Calling

You see your work as integral to your life and identity.  Work is where you can express yourself and find fulfillment and pride. Your work is a source of great enjoyment, to the extent that you would likely continue in your job if you had all the money you ever needed.

Which one was closest for you? 

 

How does it affect you?

While there is no right or wrong orientation to work, research shows that it’s the employees in the calling orientation who attribute a higher level of meaning and purpose to their work, possess higher job satisfaction, and are more satisfied with their lives overall.  But, interestingly, it is difficult to predict which orientation an employee will hold based on their occupation, level of education, or income.  What generally separates people in a calling is how they approach their job.  In particular, people in a calling are more likely to engage in activities known as “job crafting” which is about making small changes to the way you approach your job so that it better suits your skills, motivations, and interests.

Research shows that people who job craft are more engaged, motivated, and perform better.  It has even been documented that job crafting is teachable, so that it can be taught and learned in order to help employees to thrive at work and in life!   However, there is still more to be learned about job crafting, particularly in the educational sector where teachers are time-poor, have busy lives, and are stressed out.  

 

What can you do to create more meaning in your work?

Dr. Gavin Slemp and colleagues from the Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne are conducting research into what enables and predicts job crafting for teachers.  This will help us to understand how to best teach educators to engage in job crafting behaviors so that we can improve their working lives of teachers, and ultimately enhance teacher wellbeing! 

Would you like to contribute to a major international research effort seeking to help understand our work as teachers and teacher wellbeing?
Gavin and his team would like to invite you to complete a 15-20 minute anonymous survey about your experiences of your job.  The survey will ask you a variety of questions about how you approach your work, your working environment, and feelings you have about work.  

Click here to see the survey.  

If you are interested in hearing the results of this survey, please leave your details so that the team at the Centre for Positive Psychology can share them to you.