One of the most common questions kids are asked is, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

The answers can certainly be cute, and occasionally even reflect a true lifelong passion that leads to an occupation. But, more often the answers change over time and reflect the process most of us go through to find out what we want to “be”.

We may not all grow up to be the doctor, lawyer, or policeman we intended as a child. But finding satisfaction and fulfillment in the workplace is much less about what we do and more about how we do it.

Work That We Value. Why Occupational Wellness Matters.

People who find their work meaningful have greater job satisfaction, better mental health, and a more positive outlook. (1) In general, what gives work meaning is the contribution we make to those around us and how much we feel our job matters in our community.

While in some occupations the way our work helps others is direct and obvious, for other jobs it may be harder to see.

Finding meaning in our work is mostly a matter of perspective. Not all jobs feel intrinsically meaningful. It may require big picture thinking to trace the impact our job has on our community and world.

During the pandemic shutdowns in 2020, some of the most critical jobs were revealed to be those at grocery stores, gas stations, and pharmacies. They are essential to the community, enable our society to function and thrive, and so hold deep meaning.


Work / Life Balance Is the Path Toward Workplace Wellness

When work drains too much of our time and energy, other areas of our life and wellness will suffer. Long work hours are associated with insufficient sleep and a higher risk of poor health in later life. (2) The risk of suffering a stroke is 1.3 times higher in people who work 55 or more hours per week. (3) Too much work can literally kill us.

A job that contributes to both our workplace wellness and our overall wellness should allow time to enjoy leisure and rest. It certainly should not get in the way of an adequate night’s sleep.

Conversely, having too little work to do can create a work/life imbalance. Unemployment or underemployment can lead to poor health and feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem. (4) Having a job provides stability and security which are essential to wellness.

We all need good work, and we all need good rest.

Risk of stroke in people who work 55 or more hours per week.

The Work Is up to Us

Engaging in work that we value and find meaningful is an essential component of wellness. And much of it is in our hands. We are the only ones who can create healthy boundaries for our job, and only we can choose the attitude we bring to work.

As in so many other areas of life, the work is up to us.

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson