Eric Barker relates “four stories from the latest research that can make your job more meaningful and make you happier at the office.”
“Change Your Job Description” is my favorite:
Cleaning the floors in a hospital isn’t anyone’s dream job. Emptying trash cans in patient rooms doesn’t feel special or important. But what if you had the same responsibilities and chose to see your work in a broader context?
I’m helping this hospital run better and my work allows these patients to heal and return to their families.
A study did just that—comparing workers who saw their jobs as merely a paycheck versus seeing it as something deeper. And those who saw their cleaning duties as contributing to the health of the patients felt their jobs were more meaningful.
Wrzesniewski and Dutton followed a group of hospital cleaners, and found that some of the cleaners experienced their work as a job—as something they did solely for the paycheck—and described it as boring and meaningless. But another group perceived the same work as a calling—and experienced the hours they spent at work as engaging and meaningful. This second group of hospital cleaners did things differently from the first group. They engaged in more interactions with nurses, patients, and visitors, taking it upon themselves to make everyone they came in contact with feel better. Generally, they saw their work in its broader context: They were not merely cleaning the wards and removing the trash, but were contributing to the health of patients and the smooth functioning of the hospital.
How do you see your job? Is there a better—but still honest—lens to see it through that would make you happier?
What would it look like if companies started requiring (in effect) two job descriptions? One traditional job description outlining specific duties and expectations, and another that the employee would have to create to serve as a sort of personal mantra for their vocation.