Many people want to love their jobs and be happy all the time. It’s a nice ideal, but then what? Imagine if happiness wasn’t the goal, but meaning, purpose and value were?
If employees could feel a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in their work, it’s likely they wouldn’t be pulled into the great escape from the workplace. If employees felt valued, perhaps they’d stay.
Women and burnout in the workplace is the topic of a recent McKinsey & Company podcast and report. They found women are doing more to support employee well-being but face higher stress levels as a result: “42% of women say they have been often or almost always burned out in 2021.”
As a solution, some have suggested sabbaticals, as covered by a Wall Street Journal reporter recently in “The Sabbatical, a Power Move for the Burnout Era” (paywall). Trust me, most of us would like to be the employee who finds the antidote to stress by taking a long company-sponsored break from our jobs. But we don’t all have the luxury of taking a paid sabbatical, or even a power nap, because of work demands, so what else can you do? To counter burnout, I propose an alternative.
Awareness at work is a powerful tool. It can make us feel more in control and even satisfied. But first, let’s understand what work actually means. Why are we all doing what we do every day?
Remember, knowledge is power. Work is an “activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.” And we get paid for it. In physics, work is done “when a force acts upon an object to cause a displacement of the object.” The language of the law interprets work to mean “the performance of services for which remuneration is payable.”
Broken down, work is simply a task or tasks to be undertaken. But we often overthink it. The bottom line is that we’d like to get paid for doing work we love. Reframe your perspective just slightly to focus on getting paid for work you value.
Take a values assessment. Value is the key. Look at your company’s mission and ask if it aligns with what you value. If the answer is yes, that’s the start you need to further align your values with your workplace. If not, it’s time to ask yourself: Why am I staying here?
It’s as simple as that. Your work must align with your values. Aligning these parts of your life cuts all the other mental gymnastics out of it. There are many values assessments you can take, such as the assessment from The Minimalists, who believe in making conscious decisions in life and work by determining what is important to you. Taking a values assessment is a start in helping you define what that looks like.
Setting religious dogma aside, prayer at work is a tangible tool you can rely on. Prayer in this sense simply means expressing gratitude, giving thanks and being deliberate in communication.
Seek a moment of consciousness. Prayer can be done anywhere; it is a push for connection. You can meditate at work. Sit in stillness for a few moments and breathe. Write a quick gratitude list, putting all the tangibles you are thankful for down on paper — writing connects the heart to the head.
Get connected. Another option is to stand up and walk out the door. Take a few minutes to go outside. Ground yourself by walking on the earth, feeling nature under your feet and inhaling fresh air. You are not alone. The people you work with probably want you to remember they are human beings, not human doings. Be the observer of that constant voice in your head — you know the one that never shuts off. By simply noticing it, you deepen your awareness and become more conscious. Thoughts create outcomes. Have domain over your thoughts.
Let’s take a look at our own well-being. To love is to experience “an intense feeling of deep affection.” This could be an attachment, affection or simply a great interest and pleasure in something. Therefore, ask yourself not only what you value, but what you love.
Create a community. Your team at work can be your community. I prefer the term “community” at work as opposed to “family.” While you may strive to have a work family, what you’re really aiming to create is connection, and this means community.
In what ways do you contribute to creating this community for yourself? Part of self-care is surrounding yourself with supportive people and limiting your time interacting with non-supportive people. To create a feeling of fellowship with others, seek out people who share a common mindset and similar interests. Create a close-knit group for yourself. It begins with making one authentic connection.
Explore your creativity. I’ve found we are not truly fulfilled unless we are creative. I am truly happy when I create, and many of us feel a need to be creative. For me, creativity involves minimalism, which helps me to be purposeful. It helps me to get rid of the clutter, the distractions, even the consumerism, so I can be freed up to create and live a more genuine life. Where are you being creative? What can you eliminate from your world or your work to open up some creative space?
Call To Action
Let go of the hustle culture. The workforce is going deeper. Employees are asking meaningful questions of themselves and their company culture. What are my values? Do they align with my workplace? What kind of people do I want to be around? Where can I eliminate mental, physical or emotional clutter? Where can I identify toxicity and then eliminate it? How can I become more conscious and aware? And how can I feel more fulfilled today? The power to go from the toxic, hustle-culture mentality into a space of consciousness, awareness and presence is all within your domain.