A new US survey sheds some light on how our work generally impacts our wellbeing.

In the country that is the keenest about wellness (the US) and in the socioeconomic group that is the most invested in it (the affluent, upper-middle class), new data reveals that a surprisingly high percentage of individuals are miserable at work. According to a survey conducted by the US Conference Board, only around half of American workers say they are satisfied with their jobs (so the other half isn’t…), compared to 61 percent in the mid-1980s.

The reasons most commonly invoked for this pervasive sentiment of dissatisfaction or malaise—synonyms for un-wellness—are (in no particular order): the Internet and social media “always-on” culture, oppressive working hours, increased competition and political infighting.

In addition, there is a more intangible but powerful element that can be directly related to what generates subjective wellbeing: purpose and meaning.

The lack of it is striking: Many high-level professionals feel their work isn’t worth the grueling effort they are investing in it. They refer to “unbearable stress” about “wasting their life” and about having “to perform a completely meaningless job” (even if it generates a seven-figure salary).

This provides new evidence about the true source of wellness: It has to be found in a sense of purpose (eudaimonic wellbeing, which stems from purpose and meaning) rather than in material wealth (hedonic wellbeing, which comes mainly from instant gratification). The bottom line: The impact of having (or not) a meaningful job is rarely discussed in wellness circles, yet a job in which we find purpose and that constitutes some form of societal value (such as helping others), is a prerequisite for wellness.

Conversely, any job, irrespective of how well paid it is, that doesn’t grant us autonomy (i.e., the ability to control our time and the authority to act on our own expertise) and meaning is bound to destroy our sense of wellbeing. For anyone miserable at work, getting a massage or practicing yoga to feel better might address the symptoms, but it can’t really tackle the root cause.

One thought on “Purpose at Work Needs to Be Far Bigger Part of Wellness Conversation”

  1. We need to work because we are human. But the purpose of work should not be to earn money. The purpose of work should be to help and to contribute. When people run after money, then it certainly makes them miserable. The real satisfaction in life comes from helping others and making a good contribution to a smaller or greater scale. And the money should be as a reward for helping and contributing something good to humanity, to animals, to this planet, to the overall things.

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