Fulfilled living in later life
When work has meaning

Monday 22nd April 2024

When work has meaning

Louise Morse

Analysis of a recent survey by YouGov found that around 11 million employees in the UK believe their jobs are not important and do not make a meaningful contribution to society. They mainly include people working in retail, financial services, hospitality, and leisure.

While previous generations found satisfaction in being able to support their families and ‘put bread on the table,’ in today’s world it’s to be found in working a shorter, four-day week, for the same salary. A spokesperson at the 4 Day Week Campaign that is aiming to introduce this said it will boost job satisfaction as well as productivity. Organisers are planning a one-month trial this summer, called 4AUGUST, with participating companies giving staff a 4-day working week with wages unchanged.

It’s sad that people working in the sectors noted feel that their jobs are not important, because they are basically ‘people jobs,’ interacting socially with others. It’s not like working with machinery, or packing widgets on a conveyor belt. And for the life of me, I can’t see how working a day less at the same job can increase job satisfaction or productivity.

But these workers are not receiving appreciation from their employers or their customers. We need feedback to tell us how we’re doing, otherwise we can feel like robots acting mechanically.

When it comes to job satisfaction perhaps the highest level is when you are able to help people who really need it. A few weeks ago I met David, a young man who looked like a rugby front row forward, but was a carer who had come to my friend’s home as part of his job, to help her frail husband get ready for bed. He had been a carer for seven years and loved the job. We tend not to think of young men in these roles, but I remember talking to a student in one of our care homes who had come to get experience with older people before he began medical training to become a doctor.

Staff working in our care homes know how appreciated they are. Their team leaders, their managers, everyone in the structure, including our trustees, tell them their worth. And their interactions with residents is hugely positive – often they tell them they are praying for them. You can read heart-warming stories in our Pilgrims’ Magazine each quarter.

Recently I came across a new word that fits well with them. It’s ‘eudaimonic,’ and means ‘pursuing happiness by finding meaning and purpose.’ I thought how well it fits the people who work in our care homes. A 25-year-old carer told me that it was her first job after leaving school. She’d thought it would be a temporary sleeve-in to employment, but she found it so satisfying she stayed on. For her, the big ‘eudaimonia’ was thinking back on her day and knowing that she had made a real difference in the lives of our residents.

There are currently around 150,000 vacancies in the care sector, and I wonder how many of the 11 million who feel their jobs don’t make a meaningful contribution to society have thought about a career in care? Especially those who are Christian, for the imperative to care is strong in our faith, and is significant to God. Matthew 25:40 says, ‘The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Perhaps we should run a recruitment campaign tagged, ’Find your eudaimonia with us!’

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