Thursday 20 January 2022

Why a sense of purpose is valuable in the workplace

For many of us, we spend almost a quarter of our week working so when we’re doing a job without any sense of purpose, it can impact on our wellbeing. When we feel like we’re undertaking monotonous and repetitive tasks day-in, day-out, it can drain us of our mental and physical energy.

But a sense of purpose can mean different things to different people, depending on what motivates us or what gives us that feeling of fulfilment. Maybe you have an interest in a certain field that you’re passionate about and you want to feel as though you’re making a positive contribution towards a bigger goal. It’s these kinds of passions or interests that can influence our career choices in the first place.

Why do we need a sense of purpose?

Although you’ve probably experienced an unfulfilling job at some point in your life and you’ve craved for something more meaningful, there are also scientific studies that have shown how a sense of purpose can motivate us and create a barrier against stress and anxiety.

Some ways that having a sense of purpose can affect our health include:
  • When there’s greater meaning behind the work we do it can minimise stress-related illnesses such as anxiety, stress, depression, and high blood pressure. In turn, this means that we are less likely to take sick days from work.
  • By feeling like we are directing our energy towards something meaningful or a greater goal, we are more motivated and happier in our work. 
  • Having an interest in or a reason for the work we do, gives us a sense of pride and encourages us to aim higher and achieve more. This means that we are more likely to be committed to our job.
  • Time feels like it goes faster when we’re doing a job that we get enjoyment or satisfaction out of. When time drags it can make us feel resentful and anxious about going to work.

In The McKinsey Podcast, Naina Dhingra explains how through her studies, she has found that “about 70 per cent of people say they define their purpose through work. And, actually, millennials, even more so, are likely to see their work as their life calling. So what this means is that people are looking for opportunities in the work they do day-to-day to be actually contributing to what they believe their purpose is”.

From these findings it’s important that both employees and employers are clear about the purpose of the company and the staff roles within it. By ensuring there’s a clearer understanding of each role, employees will feel like they have a sense of purpose, and this will ultimately create confidence within individuals. Be clear about how each role contributes to the bigger picture of the company and its mission. This way all workers, regardless of how big or small they feel their role is in the workplace, will know that they are making an important contribution, and this will not only boost their wellbeing, but it can also significantly increase their motivation and levels of commitment.

Thursday 6 January 2022

The importance of promoting digital wellbeing

In 2020, the world was whisked into a new digital era where working from home and online meetings suddenly became the norm for millions of people around the globe. While some people could adapt to these changes relatively smoothly, for others it was out of their comfort zone and became an additional form of stress alongside the confusion, fear, and uncertainty of the pandemic.

A study described on delved into how technology can affect our wellbeing. It found that although there are many benefits to the digital world, many people are concerned that the growing use of technology is a contributing factor of stress, lack of focus, and cyberbullying.

Negative effects of increased technology at work

  • There is increasing pressure to always be available online when we’re working from home. Yet if we were physically in our place of work, this kind of pressure would be less likely to exist. 
  • With the new way of working from home, in many instances online meetings have increased. Although this may partly be out of concern for employees’ wellbeing, in some cases it might also be a way to check up on employees. For many people this new way of holding meetings digitally feels uncomfortable because they feel that their every move or facial expression is being scrutinised. 
  • Not everyone who’s been unexpectedly thrown into working from home is familiar with the apps designed for online meetings, and this fear of technology can trigger anxiety. Learning how to use unfamiliar technology and the fear that external factors might prevent you from getting online in time can all add to the stress. 
  • Prior to working from home, you may not have been aware of 'mirror anxiety'. The use of online meeting apps such as Zoom mean that you can constantly see yourself on screen and this feeling of vulnerability has been linked to heightened anxiety and depression.
  • Excessive online meetings and use of technology through working from home means that there is more pressure and less time to complete work and meet deadlines. 
  • Because you’re less likely to video call a colleague for a quick chat when you’re home working, it means there’s a lack of face-to-face socialising which can make you feel isolated.

Ways to promote digital wellbeing

There are several ways that managers can reinforce wellbeing and help their employees adjust to a more digitally focused way of working.

  • During online meetings, give the option to have the camera switched off.
  • Give plenty of notice for online meetings so that staff are less likely to feel on edge about suddenly being called to a meeting, especially when they aren’t dressed appropriately.
  • Loosen up on the dress code and don’t expect employees to attend online meetings in more formal wear.
  • Organise out of hours social events online so that employees aren’t just seeing colleagues in work mode. Often emails and other forms of digital communication can get misconstrued, so this provides the opportunity for everyone to socialise informally.
  • Have trust in your employees so that if they do decide to go for a walk outside at lunchtime, for example, they aren’t in fear of management accusing them of avoiding work.
  • Streamline all forms of communication and stick to a minimal number of online channels so not to confuse people or create more stress. Ensure all employees are familiar with the channels being used prior to their use.
  • Regularly ask staff to feed back on the new digital way of working from home. What is good for one person might not be good for another so try to accommodate each person accordingly.

Further information

First Psychology held three webinars on the topic of digital working. You can read more about these webinars and watch the recordings for free using the links below.