The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we live in the last few months. It has gotten us to rethink our priorities, and evaluate what is important and what is less so. Being stuck at home with family or being alone under lockdown has underlined the importance of a good work-life balance and has perhaps brought to the forefront questions about our work and career. It has made people think about the role of work in their lives, even about its impact on the environment, society, economic impact and personal wellbeing.

Although thinking about meaningful work during a pandemic may seem secondary, the perceptions we have on meaningful work leave an impact on our day to day. In fact, the pandemic has caused a large portion of workers in the UK to rethink what they do with 41% considering quitting their jobs for more fulfilling work when the worst is over. 22% went as far as calling their current role as “pointless” according to a study by Slater and Gordon.

What is meaningful work?

Finding meaning in work is personal to each and every one of us. What may be meaningful to you, might not be to the next person. However, a good rule of thumb to meaningful work is simply – going to work without it feeling like Monday every day. It may also be a question of how what you do contributes to society, or whether you feel you are fulfilling your potential or finding the work “exciting” or absorbing. More than 9 out of 10 employees are willing to sacrifice a percentage of their earnings for greater meaning at work, according to coaching firm BetterUp (2017). Moreover, it benefits employers as well – as employees who are engaged in their work and find meaning in it spend an extra hour a week working and two less days of leave every year. This also means, there is greater job satisfaction, productivity and overall decreased employee turnover.

Witnessing a global crisis helps put things into perspective too. What are you spending your precious time on? This leads us to be more conscious about our use of time and the mindset becomes one of quality over quantity. Pre-pandemic, “busyness” had become a buzz word and in some ways a “status” symbol. The busier you are, the more powerful and successful.  For years, the general belief was that being productive, constantly “hustling” and chasing your goals was the key to success – and a measure of competence. When the pandemic hit, while medical staff, supermarket employees and other key workers were busier than ever, others were forced to hit the pause button.

Whilst many are bound to find this time incredibly challenging due to financial, emotional, and logistical challenges, people who usually live very busy, high-pressure live have welcomed the break and stillness that came with self-isolation and quarantine. Some may have also found a sense of new-found appreciation for their lives before all this. This makes it a great time to check what has been missing, or what has been “too much” in life.

With so many people working from home, the pandemic has forced us to think about the way we work. An overdue conversation, one could say, when the 9 to 5 workweek has its origins are from the time of the Industrial Revolution. Although the pandemic has forced us to take extreme measures, causing perhaps logistical problems especially to parents which have to juggle work with having children around as schools are closed it has definitely refreshed our outlook to work life and the work week as we know it.

Finding our work meaningful, could simply mean blurring the strict lines between our work life with our home and personal lives – through flexible work hours, the elimination (or reduction) of oftentimes unnecessary commuting to and from work with remote working. Hopefully, this makes many realise that “busyness” does not equal more productivity. This could simply mean more meaningful lives, not simply meaningful work.

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