Could Meaning at Work Translate to a Healthier Brain?
A recent article by the American Heart Association suggests there may be a corollary between a life that has purpose with a decrease in developing brain damage caused by blockages in blood flow as you age. The article defines purpose in life as having meaning and direction. It goes on to say that purpose in life means different things to different people. It could mean the ability to volunteer, learn new things, or be part of community-wide effort.
In reading the article I wondered how this knowledge translates to those working and, if people are able to discern and realize meaning and purpose from their work, whether it also decreases potential brain damage. Thinking about it puts a whole different spin on the meaning of workplace health and benefits.
The other day I was at a client site and the streets were completely blocked off. While frustrated with the long trek I had to make to attend a meeting, my exasperation quickly evaporated when I learned that the reason for the blockage had to do with employees walking for a personal noteworthy cause. As I learned from talking to several of the walkers, the employees were walking during their lunch hour for whatever worthy cause they believed in. The distance walked translated into not only good health, but specific dollars that the company would donate to a charity of their choosing. Quite a bang for the buck: emphasis on employee health and wellness from both a physical and mental aspect, giving back to the community, and a community building opportunity for all participants. As one person shared, “I’m getting the chance to talk with people I don’t typically interact with.”
We all know about companies that profess to support community efforts, believe in employee health and wellbeing efforts, and want to build internal community. Yet how many find opportunities that intertwine all three of these? If your company does, how exciting and I would welcome the opportunity to learn more and share with others.
If not, perhaps a first step is to have a meaningful dialogue with people about what significant purpose they derive from working with you, the team, and the company. If there are none, find out what it would take to put that front and center. What do people need from you as their leader to feel a stronger sense of meaning and direction in the work they do? If they already do derive a sense of purpose, learn what that is and see how it can be nurtured and developed. While a simple start, having this type of conversation builds upon employee health and wellbeing, team community, and reduces employee turnover. Yup, you heard it here, employees who derive meaning and significance from their work are much more likely to want to stay with the organization than leave. If you are interested in reading more, check out the article “Human Era at Work 2014,” which shares the findings of a joint survey between the Harvard Business Review and The Energy Project.