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Make work meaningful, make employees thrive

  • Employee Experience
  • Healthy Workplace

Author: Justin Timmer

Justin Timmer is our In-House Researcher. Contact him via

It’s amazing how much time we spend at work. Most mornings and afternoons we spend at a desk or transferring between work and home. We dedicate this time to our company, to performing well, and to making money. It’s sad to see how many people dislike what they do, how many reach a burn-out and others reach a bore-out. It’s not so surprising to see that those people who do like their job, perform better. Being engaged in your company and tasks, and enjoying your workspace and colleagues, causes you to be happy in the morning when you greet your colleagues, excited when you’re offered a challenge, and curious when you think about the next project. Work can give a sense of meaning, a sense of belonging, and a sense of certainty. But how do you get happy employees who thrive in the morning, smile at lunch, and give high-fives in the afternoon?

A sense of meaning to work

People only work for a reason, you would only start to work if it has a positive effect on you or/and the surrounding people. This also translates into the amount of work you do. If employees work hard but don’t see any effects, they will feel their energy is useless. People only work for an organisation if it gives them that something in return.  Employees need to see the effects of their work; it must feel meaningful. Employees find a part of their happiness in perceiving the effects of what they’re doing, but also in doing what they do.

Doctors for example have rewarding work because they see the positive effects of their work directly, but they also improve their skills with every new operation. So basically there are two paths in which an employee can perceive benefits from their work, in a personal sense (the effects on yourself), and an environmental sense (the effects on someone/something around you). Work is often beneficial for employees themselves through a paycheque but also through career development and/or a sense of belonging. Through this path, people will feel recognition and respect for doing what they do. The second path, the effects on the environment, makes work even more meaningful. When employees are able to help someone in need, when they contribute to making the world a better place, their work feels gratifying and worthy to do. 

Making work efficient and impacting

Doing work always costs effort, and ideally, we want the most effects for the least effort. It is one of the main tasks of an organisation to streamline and coordinate this effort to increase the impact. If someone does a lot of work but encounters much resistance, all the effort will be considered for nothing. Ideally, managers are there to support and stimulate their employees in the right direction. They facilitate them in doing their work efficiently. The easier the job becomes for employees, the more beneficial this is for the organisation. Streamlining work efforts goes roughly through two channels: through people and through (digital) workspaces. Team-, and HR managers are mostly there to improve the communication between people, within- and across teams. These managers should make the employees feel supported in doing their job, connecting all the work processes together, and making colleagues work for each other, making it a flawless machine of thriving employees.

Next to that, employees are also supported by their workspaces, the tools, and the spaces they use to do their job. Facility managers are the ones who streamline this process; their goal should be to make the physical spaces feel like it is working along with their employees, supporting the quality and efficiency of their work. By doing so, frustrations and stress are avoided, making employees spend their time more efficiently doing useful things. While making their work less exhaustive. The mental reserves saved by employees spending less effort on the same job gives room for creativity and making a bigger impact as an organisation.

How to make employees thrive?

Nevertheless, it’s easy to talk about streamlining everything, but it might be difficult to do so. Making employees thrive is a people process. People communicate with other people, and people interact with their workspaces. The goal is to match the people to the right people and the right workspaces. As we all know, everyone is different, making each situation in each organisation unique. This has an (unfortunate) consequence that there is no standard advice that will make your employees thrive.

There are general directions that can make your employees thrive and feel meaningful, like through higher paycheques, working on making the world a better place, and/or creating a fun and social atmosphere. Nevertheless, your own context requires a unique path to reach each one, or all of them. Some options are more egoistic and others more altruistic, but your employees are at a place where they might need a very specific direction. To streamline the processes and fulfil the needs of your employees, you need to know the people and their workspaces. You need to know what employees need, which spaces they like. How they feel about the people they work with, and how they want to be recognized. Only then we can know what to do to make the people within your organisation thrive. 

Want to know how you can improve your organisation by empowering your people to flourish?

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