As a co-founder of Mental Health in Business, I have become fascinated with the idea that work can be a force for good and ‘good work’ can be a powerful protective factor for our mental health and wellbeing.
A quick search on Gov UK reveals some guidance on what ‘good work’ means;
“There is clear evidence that good work improves health and wellbeing across people’s lives, not only from an economic standpoint but also in terms of quality of life. ‘Good work’ means having not only a work environment that is safe, but also having a sense of security, autonomy, good line management and communication within an organisation.” - Health Matters: Health at Work, January 2019
Of course, there are many factors to consider when defining ‘good work’ including; having good working hours, fair pay, employee benefits, wellbeing initiatives, having clear values that are lived within an organisation, opportunities for personal and professional development and more!
While it is easy to see that all of the above contribute to our health and happiness at work I think there is a major missing piece.
I’m talking about a change of heart which starts by turning inwards and asking ourselves deeper questions about our own work.
Questions such as;
Why am I working?
For what purpose?
What good am I doing in my work which benefits other human beings?
What role am I playing in life?
These questions have the potential to put us back in touch with ourselves by throwing light on why we do what we do and for whom.
Otherwise, work becomes ‘just a job’ and a job without direction and purpose can suck the life out of the best of us.
Consider your own work for a moment. It’s highly likely that the essence of your profession can be traced back to service (excluding professions which are dangerous to the health of our species and the planet).
True work is work that puts us in service to others and the wider community. It is the pursuit of this sort of work that puts us back in touch with the essence of being a human being.
When we genuinely start to experience our work as service to others (as opposed to just a job) then happiness, wellbeing and health flow naturally.
A great way to bring this vision of ‘work as service’ into daily life is to remember that true work isnt just about getting paid. In fact, a lot of what we do in service to others is unpaid. We raise children, care for elderly parents, cook dinner for our partners and loved ones, coach on the youth football team, help friends move house, tend the garden, organise community events and so much more!
Paid or unpaid, true work lights up something inside of us that has been lost. An alignment with our nature as living and giving human beings. It’s in our service to others that happiness and wellbeing can be (re) discovered.
I believe that if more people understood work in this way the majority of us would be happier, healthier and more fulfilled in our lives. Our communities would flourish and the world as we know it would change for the better.
What would it do for you to see your work as service to others? I would love to read your comments and reflections below.
Steve Heath, MHIB co-founder, MHFA Instructor & Wellbeing Coach