If you didn’t need to earn money, what would you do? You’d be on a permanent holiday, with all the free time in the world. It would be amazing for a while. Lots of travelling, seeing the world. But after a year or so you’d get bored. You’d have to find something to do to keep yourself busy, something to give your life meaning.
Meaningful work is our goal. When our work is meaningful, it doesn’t feel like work. When we are involved in a creative project that matters to us, we are completely engaged, we lose track of time, and we have a clear sense of purpose. So imagine if we could get paid for it as well. How amazing would that be?
In our recent Creativity at Work survey, we asked people to state how they felt when they were being creative. They said things like:
- Happy and sometimes exhausted
- Good. Fulfilled. Inspired. Motivated
- I get motivated, feel fully invested in wanting ideas to succeed and thoroughly enjoy it.
- It makes me feel an integral part of the success of the company.
- Empowered, challenged, free
- Free. capable. excited about possibilities. Energised.
- Keeps me motivated and keeps the fun in work. If you have the space and freedom to be creative it gets the mind going and makes you feel passionate.
As the modern workplace becomes increasingly complex, it can be harder for employees to feel a sense of purpose. The combination of multiple projects, distributed teams, online communications and shifting deadlines can often obscure the meaning of our work. It is easy to become disengaged as we become overwhelmed by the noise. And disengagement leads to lack of motivation, unhappiness, lower productivity, and ultimately lower profits.
So how do we help ourselves and our employees rediscover the meaning in work? Here are a few suggestions:
- Take a moment to think about why you go to work. What makes you get out of bed? How do you feel as you walk out the front door each morning?
- Make sure you’re absolutely clear about why you are doing the job that you do. Do you love the work? Does it provide you with a good work/life balance? Why do you keep showing up day after day? What are you looking forward to?
- Take a step back and picture your role in the wider context of your organisation. Why does your job exist? And your department? Look at your organisation’s vision and mission statements – how does the work that you do help your organisation deliver its vision and mission?
Now, if you’re a leader or a manager, take a moment to think about how much input your employees have had in shaping the organisation’s vision and mission. Or their departmental strategy. Or even just the work that they do every day. How much autonomy do they have – and do you have – over your work? When was the last time they had the opportunity to be involved in a creative project that they cared about?
Here’s the thing: people are amazing. Full of creative potential. Even the most disengaged member of your organisation could be s potential leader – if you can encourage them to use their natural creativity and find meaning in their work.
We are all inherently creative, we just need a little time and autonomy to find our purpose. To find our ‘why’. So think twice before you send that employee on another training course to improve their performance, you may need to just allow them a little breathing space to be creative, and help them find out why their work matters to the organisation.
With the right questions and encouragement, we can find meaning in our work. And if we can’t, we should be doing a different job.