Community Building for a Sense of Purpose in the Workplace

Jerome is desperate. He drags himself to his office job every day, the one he’s had for 4 years now. He clocks in at 9, and starts doing client calls until 12. He then takes a half-hour lunch break, followed by a team meeting, and then more client calls until 5. The same old job, the same routine, and an overwhelming feeling of emptiness deep inside. He doesn’t know why he’s doing what he’s doing, he just feels no sense of meaning to it all. Oh, it’s a good job, pays the bills, but he’s just so unhappy.

Jerome increasingly found himself drawing pictures in his coffee instead of doing his work, and his performance reviews suffered. He was worried about being laid off!

That’s when he came to me to get some advice on finding greater meaning and purpose in his job. He didn’t want to change the job itself, he just wanted to change his way of feeling and thinking about the job. Having read my book, Find Your Purpose Using Science, he thought I’d be the man for the job.

I told him about some of the research-based strategies for finding meaning and purpose in one’s work that I described in an earlier blog post. Namely, I described how to connect his personal goals and aspirations to his everyday tasks at work.

I then told him about an additional strategy, using myself as an example.

Try building community spirit and social bonds through your work.

Plenty of studies indicate that community and social bonds contribute strongly to a sense of meaning and purpose in life. The scientific literature shows this applies to work as to any other sphere of life.

In my own role at Intentional Insights (InIn), I strive to create opportunities to engage with fellow participants on projects together, and to collaborate in a positive and supportive manner. Collaborating around mutually exciting projects in a positive manner is one way of building social bonds in the workplace.

Moreover, I make sure to regularly meet with InIn participants where we talk about topics not directly related to our mutual work, but to other things going on in our lives. Doing so helps enrich the professional relationship and turn it into a deeper and more meaningful one, where each person feels supported by the other. Likewise, I occasionally organize social events where all InIn participants can gather to socialize, especially to celebrate important organizational accomplishments.

You can do some of the same in your own work. Most types of work provide opportunities to work with others on mutual projects together, and you can do your part to be a great team player who supports and encourages others.

Likewise, set up meetings with coworkers and talk about things related not only to work, but also to life as a whole. While an increasing number of people work from home, video-conference calls can provide an opportunity to collaborate on work projects and talk about non-work topics.

For additional resources on a science-based approach to finding meaning and purpose, check out these free resources from Intentional Insights:

  • The Find Your Purpose Using Science workbook;
  • A science-based web app to evaluate your current sense of meaning and purpose;
  • An online class on cultivating meaning and purpose in the workplace, certified for credit for coaches, trainers, HR professionals, and consultants.
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