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What to Do When Work Feels Meaningless

A feeling of purpose

A feeling of purpose

During crises, we can feel a heightened sense of purpose and connection. Crises lead many people to find deep value in their work, develop professionally, and grow personally.

While most of us don't have frontline roles, we can still discover ways to contribute through our everyday work.

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What to Do When Work Feels Meaningless

What to Do When Work Feels Meaningless

https://hbr.org/2020/06/what-to-do-when-work-feels-meaningless

hbr.org

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Key Ideas

A feeling of purpose

During crises, we can feel a heightened sense of purpose and connection. Crises lead many people to find deep value in their work, develop professionally, and grow personally.

While most of us don't have frontline roles, we can still discover ways to contribute through our everyday work.

Small actions

You may feel overwhelmed and obsess over the big things you can't influence. Instead, try to act on whatever aspect you can control, regardless how small.

Try a number of things and see what works. Small actions can generate feedback and allow you to discover more meaningful goals.

Consider your unique skills

Proactive employees use an approach where they redesign their work to better fit their strengths and interests.

During the current crisis you can fight the recession by keeping your business functioning, thereby feeding families. More significantly, you can shape your job to contribute solutions to the current problems of your community. By partnering with others, you can maximize your impact.

An opportunity to connect

If you're in a tight situation, you may not be able to do much to enhance the meaningfulness of your work. However, you can find meaning by envisioning the future.

Think what your potential dream job might be in 10 years' time. Imagine many jobs. Now work backward to find the paths that will lead you there. Also explore where your current projects and passions could lead you.

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  • The second task is to provide hope and a sense of possibility to the employees facing an uncertain future ahead.

Steel Yourself

Before any word is uttered to the employees, you need to understand your role and channel your leader 'avatar' in a time of crisis, as if preparing for a battle. Your steel nerves will be contagious(!) to your team members. You need to sound convincing, and it’s a good idea to follow the basics, like eating well, plenty of sleep and regular exercise.

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If we keep out a million distractions surrounding us and think about our goal day and night, we will succeed in our goal, no matter what. The key here is continued focus, and also making the right thing as our goal.

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Emotional Intelligence and Success

Emotional Intelligence, the ability to understand yourself and the people that you live and work with, is an excellent trait to balance and correct yourself.

Everything and everyone is connected to one another forming a huge ecosystem. Our endeavours, whether to get a job, to lose weight or to find a life partner is always related to others.

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A long-term response

Global crises are always challenging to navigate. When the time for immediate response passes, we have to dig in for the long haul.

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An employee-driven approach

Employees' health and well-being should come first. There may be a perceived choice between productivity and well-being. But, engagement is a natural by-product of well-being.

People are worried about health, job security, their kids' education, life on the other side of the crisis. Micro-managing will not create focus. Tactics like time-tracking software will only compound the problem. Instead, focus on easing their fears. The more distractions we as leaders can clear away, the more effective our people will be.

Guiding principles for a crisis response
  • Part of the response is to hold performance and growth check-ins to acknowledge the contribution each employee is making and help them manage their longer-term professional goals.
  • Err on the side of overcommunicating. Create a communication plan and be consistent. E.g., a daily email from the heads of each unit, or video messages from the CEO. Share even the bad news, to prevent employees from inventing their own stories to fill the void.
  • Keep a tight feedback loop. Know how your employees are coping, how their work is affected, and how they think leadership can help.
  • Be mindful of the resources you're consuming. Don't consume additional masks, disinfectants, and other supplies that hospitals need.

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The four pillars of Purpose

The qualities that lead to a strong sense of purpose are awareness, values, aspirations, and congruent behaviors.

To activate them, the process looks like this: use awareness to connect with what’s alive within you; intention, to visualize your best life; alignment, to match your actions with your values; and resilience, to unhook from rigidity.

Awareness: paying attention to what you're experiencing

Awareness simply means paying attention to the experience you are having as you are having it.

You can practice awareness of your own sense of purpose simply by taking the time to acknowledge the thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations that appear when you consider your life and what purpose means to you.

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Meaningful Work

21–35% of our life is spent at work, making it a crucial part of our lives to spend at something we find meaning in.

Meaningful work should be:

  • Motivating and purposeful.
  • Should be coherent and make some sense.
  • Should be significant.
Connected with a Purpose

Meaningful work is when we feel a genuine connection with what we do for a living and our larger spectrum of life.

It is motivating, creates deep relationships and helps others.

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There is a strong relationship between anxiety/depression and the use of smartphones, particularly social media usage among kids, though the data also seem to show the positive effects of staying connected with their peers. Online distractions also make youngsters give up their offline life, leading to isolation and further depression.

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Keep teammates accountable

Creating accountability is a great way to manage the work remotely. Accountability is shifted to the teammates, who are now supposed to be responsible for their own work and decisions.

One way to build accountability in remote teams is to assign groups and let teammates hold each other responsible. Also make teammates share their work experience and any issues they face, publicly (within the team) so that it acts as a ready solution for others, reducing repeat work.

Document Everything

Even if the team is small, document, formalize and map each process, making it scalable and automatic.

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Count Your Grit

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Giving mundane jobs meaning

We can find meaning when we tell ourselves stories. Reflecting on ourselves and how we see ourselves creates an almost instant change in behavior. Self-awareness involves comparing the self to the ideas of what we should or could be.

When people are told that their actions are being filmed, they consistently change their behavior. They work harder and are more consistent in their actions and values.

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