When people feel good and believe they are doing meaningful work, they do high-quality work.
When people feel they are doing meaningful, high-quality work, they feel good.

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Work/Career Well-being: Creating Deeper Connection to Our Purpose

Posted By Jennifer S. Pitts, Ph.D. 5/5/2016
People spend a large percentage of their waking hours at work. Occupational health and social health dimensions are highly related, so it is not surprising that people socialize and form relationships (both positive and negative) with coworkers. A recent Gallup survey found a strong reciprocal relationship between well-being and employee engagement, although well-being was a stronger predictor of engagement than the reverse. In other words, while engagement in work positively influences well-being, it is more likely that people with strong well-being will become engaged in their work.1
Having a fulfilling occupation or career that fosters
a sense of purpose, flow, growth, and connectedness
is critically important to well-being. 

In his book Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance, Kim Cameron (one of the founders of the fields of positive leadership and positive organizational scholarship) outlines four qualities of work that are related to meaningfulness:

  1. There is a positive relationship between meaningful work and well-being
  2. The work is associated with an important personal virtue or value
  3. Work that aligns with employee values is related to greater meaning
  4. Work that builds connections and a sense of community is more meaningful.

The act of work itself can have a very positive influence on personal satisfaction and happiness. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the term “flow” to describe an intrinsic state that can occur when people engage in activities that have clear goals and provide immediate and ongoing feedback, and when their skills match the challenge of the task. Flow is the state of being completely immersed, absorbed, and engaged in an activity to the degree that the person loses the sense of self and time, and bodily states (e.g., hunger, thirst) are ignored. Artists, athletes, and surfers often experience a state of flow or a sense of being “in the zone.”

A sense of flow is deeply and intrinsically enjoyable,
so occupations that provide the conditions for flow
can be extremely fulfilling and rewarding.

While work can be fulfilling, it can also be very stressful. Finding the right balance between work and leisure time is also essential. Working for a company with corporate values that reflect personal values (shared values) is important for building a sense of meaningful and fulfilling work. Discovering a career or occupation that provides a sense of meaning, opportunities for growth, enjoyable atmosphere, and close connections with colleagues can strongly influence positive individual health.