The importance of having meaningful work

Recent research suggests that the satisfaction individuals derive from work is not based just on a paycheck but rather on the meaning found in even doing menial tasks:

In several recent studies, social scientists have zeroed in on why paychecks alone can’t explain the link between work and well-being. The evidence shows that people can find meaning in seemingly insignificant jobs and that even trivial tasks make us far happier than no tasks at all.

“We become very dedicated to things it would be hard to be dedicated to if we were perfectly rational,” says behavioral scientist Dan Ariely, author of “The Upside of Irrationality,” published in June. “It turns out you can give people lots of meaning in lots of ways, even small ones.”…

The findings suggest that, although people often yield to idleness, deep down they seek excuses to stay busy, because busyness is happiness. However much Sisyphus rued his meaningless job, the authors conclude, he would have been even more miserable with no job at all.

Interesting findings that would have profound implications for the workplace.

Some quick questions:

1. Do these researchers argue that these benefits of working are linked to human nature or is it a conditioned response based on culture and other factors?

2. What are the long-term consequences of people having no work? If work is meaningful, what happens if people cannot work for different reasons (health, unemployment, other possibilities)?

3. How many workplaces (or what percentage) explicitly talk to employees about the meaningfulness of their individual work?

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