The Meaning of Work: The Big Impact of Small Changes

Some of us hate and some of us love work, but as the true nature of our reality, most of us have no choice and we just “have” to work. Whenever we are speaking about the “meaning” of work I have to say it, that I feel jealous of all those people who see meaning in their work and I am always curious what are those factors that motivate them. Labor leaders often argue that workers can be motivated by more pay, shorter working hours and improved working conditions. Many organizations today are also experimenting with a variety of alternative work arrangements. These alternative arrangements are generally intended to enhance employee motivation and performance. Provide employees with greater flexibility in how and when they work, flexible work schedules and job sharing. It is very interesting to find out if there is anything that can be more important than meaning.

The award-winning business leader, entrepreneur and the author Margaret Heffernan reveals how organizations can build ideal workplace cultures. In the article, that is an excerpt from Margaret Heffernan’s “Beyond Measure, the Big Impact of the Small Changes”, argues that building the strongest organization can be accelerated by implementing seemingly small changes that she calls a social capital: mutual reliance, an underlying sense of connectedness that builds trust. Money might make you work harder but it might not make you work better with other people because to do that, as Heffernan says, you have to build something called social capital, that is same as the trust. According to her, it is social capital that makes companies robust, that time is everything and social capital compounds with time. Teams that work together longer, they work better, because it takes time to develop the trust we need. According to her, time builds value and great connectedness is what makes people productive. The driving goal of the company should not be the revenue of billions of dollars, as she argues it can’t bring to companies’ success. But there is something different, something that could touch people deeper inside then the revenue, most importantly creating a workspace that mainly helps to make the company’s more meaningful and fun.

In the 21st century, the emphasis shifts toward the ability to think critically, with the ability to interact and communicate, with the creative approach to the work. It might be hard for people to think about work as a social space and finding what is the happier working place we want to be. However, most people including me, work for different reasons, and a sense of connection with other people is one of them. What we need is to be respected by our coworkers, by supervisors, all the things that get us to engage in our tasks. Most importantly, it is about the meaning of what we do and how that work is valued that could be the thing that really matters.  When we think about labor, in general, we think motivation and the payment is the same thing. But I believe that we should add a different kind of things to it, identity, pride, challenges. As a whole, it will take workers to more productive and happier place. And when I am reflecting on my own career, which is really long, and thinking about the extraordinary people that I had a privilege to work with, I realized how much more we could give to each other. It is my belief that “work” is more about learning myself and learning about the people around me.


2 thoughts on “The Meaning of Work: The Big Impact of Small Changes”

  1. Terrific, will look forward to discussing this idea of “social capital” and how to maximize it in different kinds of organizations. And also whether “loving work” is a luxury that should be available to all….or whether that’s a pipe dream.

  2. This was a very interesting and relatable topic. I can confidently state that I have very well established and trusting working relationships with a few colleagues in my department. This is very essential, especially in smaller teams within divisions and larger departments. Sharing information and trusting co-workers to assist in issues or when you are absent is beneficial and increases productivity. However, we are in an era or in transition to increased utilization of technocology where privacy and trust are questionable. Some workers may not trust others handling their documents or accessing their files in a shared drive on a network. There are also some cases where workers have the mentality “if you want it done right, do it yourself.” In addition, with the gig economy becoming an alternative work environment it may become difficult to form trusting working relationships when the turn over rate of employees is high.

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