How meaningful work shields you from burnouts

Mental well-being in the workforce has long been an issue and is amplified due to corona. A 2021 study of 15.000 professionals worldwide found that 52% of those surveyed were struggling with mental health at work, with 62% experiencing more stress and anxiety than previously. One of the reasons employees mention that it gives them stress and anxiety is they have too much work to do.

But what do they mean by that? Research shows there’s a big difference between actual workload and perceived workload. This can be explained by looking at how purposeful people find the tasks they perform at work. Numerous case studies found that people who find meaning in their work don’t hoard their energy and dedication. They give them freely, contradicting the traditional economic belief that people are mainly motivated by self-interest. They grow rather than stagnate. They do more, and they do it better.

According to professor Hannes Zacher, psychologist and Professor of Work and Organizational Psychology at the University of Leipzig, it’s often not the quantity, but the quality of their work life that determines whether people burn out. If people feel like their work is meaningful and valued, they feel less stressed.

Therefore balancing the boring but necessary (non-purposeful) tasks with the more purposeful tasks is essential to support employees to thrive and prevent them from dropping out. So what do you truly and profoundly aspire to? What gives you energy and joy – in short, what drives you? And how can you connect your personal mission with the larger purpose of your company?