Work gives meaning to life for a quarter of Britons

Nov 15 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Nearly a quarter of British workers are so passionate about their job that they believe it defines who they are and gives their life meaning, a study has suggested.

But the research by consultancy Penna has also found that nearly half of workers Ė 48 per cent Ė have perhaps a slightly more healthy perspective, arguing that while their job is important to them, it does not necessarily give them a sense of belonging.

While family life takes precedence over work life for the overwhelming majority of British workers (with social life in-between), for a significant 12 per cent work is the single biggest provider of "community and belonging" in their lives.

Nearly a quarter of directors or managing directors say they get more meaning from work than either at home or socially.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the competing pressures that will often come into our lives as we get older, older workers say they gain more from work, with 17 per cent of over-45s citing work as their number one community generator.

The majority of British employees are proud to work for their organisation, with more than half "somewhat proud" and 28 per cent "very proud".

Yet this still leaves one in five workers feeling no pride at all in working for their employer, pointed out Penna.

Respect was essential to creating a positive work environment, the research suggested, with 43 per cent of employees polled saying respect from their boss created a positive work experience as did feeling appreciated for 39 per cent.

A similar percentage felt being valued and appreciated for who they were by their employer or boss was important.

A sense of achievement and a personal challenge creates a positive experience for the majority of workers, indicating that individuals wanted to be stretched and challenged in their roles and not idle the time away.

The opportunity to contribute to the success of the organisation was also very important to creating a positive work environment for 43 per cent of those polled.

Nearly a third of those polled said a boss with integrity helped to create a positive environment, while 26 per cent mention a genuine concern for overall welfare.

More than half of employees felt they gained from positive social interaction at work and a third would go as far as to say they felt a "sense of community".

A total of 17 per cent had built up a close network of friends through their workplace.

This figure was highest in London, where because of the number of transient employees the workplace was felt to be an important social agent.

The workplace represented a cultural "melting pot" for a third of workers, who had been able to meet people from different walks of life through work.

It also had a key role to play as in helping integration. Likewise, work helped to increase understanding and knowledge of other cultures for a quarter of all workers, said the Penna research.

The survey also asked what benefits an organisation could expect in return if it dedicated resources and effort into creating meaning at work.

More than half of those polled said they would be more motivated, more loyal (42 per cent), take more pride in their work (32 per cent), work harder (22 per cent), work longer hours to get the job done (21 per cent), be more creative (18 per cent), work more quickly (10 per cent).

Just 5 per cent said that it was the least employers could offer and they should expect no other benefit in return.

Gary Browning, chief executive of Penna, said: "The research demonstrates that 'meaning at work' is real. Employees will be more motivated, loyal, creative and productive in an organisation that has helped them find meaning at work."

He added: "Meaning at work has the potential to be a valuable way to bring employees and employers closer together for the benefit of both.

"Where employees sense clarity of direction and commonality of purpose they are more able to identify with the organisation.

He continued: "If the organisation allows them the space to be themselves and the opportunity to make a contribution, they find meaning

"But organisations are still uncertain about how to go about creating meaning at work."