‘Meaningful work’ – what it means to us (and why you’re probably already doing it)
From time to time, I notice certain themes, trends and buzzwords surfacing in my various news feeds. It can be hard to disentangle marketing-driven bandwagonism, from concepts that have genuine merit. Whether it’s CSR, ESG, The Great Resignation, The Crypto Gold Rush, there’s always something vying for the limelight.
These phenomena and the news about them, tend to come in waves. The current wave that’s tickling my reticular system, is ‘meaningful work’. More specifically, the importance of doing meaningful work. The reason this has struck a loud and clear chord with me is that ‘do meaningful work’ has long been one of our (Oval’s) stated mantras.
Here’s the thing. We cannot declare, unequivocally and universally, what defines ‘meaningful work’. It’s innately subjective. There will be as many definitions of what’s meaningful, as there are companies, or even people in the world. It’s not as if ‘meaning’ or purpose is the preserve only of certain professions or roles. It’s not as literal as being out there, overtly and demonstrably saving lives. It’s something altogether more variable and nuanced.
What we know is this. Our work makes a positive difference to our clients and, in turn, to their clients, employees or ‘users’. In some cases, our work is indeed directly related to classically meaningful causes, such as developing systems to assist aid efforts in developing nations. But, sometimes, we’re simply making it easier for companies to get their work done, with the minimum level of stress. An efficient system can be the difference between people having to work late, trawling through data, versus being able to get home early. It can be the difference between using too many resources on a construction job, versus getting it just right. It can be the difference between complying with the required safety labelling on a bottle, versus not complying. It’s all meaningful.
Perhaps what’s more important is for people to actively recognise the meaning in their work. It’s easy to think ‘I just write code’, but what’s the ultimate impact of that work? For example, the team working on our AwardStage platform play a role in helping people all over the world to celebrate achievement. The developers working on a truck scheduling system are having an impact on the environment (inefficient allocation equals too many trucks at partial capacity, which means greater, unnecessary consumption of our planet’s resources).
Sometimes we just need to give ourselves credit for the work we do and for the difference we make.