The Meaning of Work Report



Purposeful work is one of the emerging trends in commentary around the workplace and its future – so we set out to understand how people in the UK think about purpose in the workplace and how important it is to their day-to-day experience of their jobs.

Defining purpose is not a straightforward task – so we asked workers to tell us what purpose meant to them. Ranked most highly, at 59%, was “doing well at my job”, suggesting the intrinsic satisfaction of a job well done is important to many. With 69% of UK workers telling us they are motivated to perform to the best of their abilities, and 78% frequently going above and beyond in their current role, it would appear the UK workforce is driven to ensure they fulfil what they define as purposeful work.

For 59% purpose at work means ‘doing well at my job’

This complements some recent research from the ONS, which revealed that individuals are more likely to report higher life satisfaction if they have higher household spending power. If life satisfaction is impacted by money, then it’s perhaps no surprise that most of us define purposeful work as feeling as though we’re doing a good job.

A notably smaller number defined purpose as working for an organisation that acts morally (25%) or for the greater good (28%), suggesting that for UK workers, purpose is much more about their own performance in the job than it is about an organisation’s CSR activities, moral stance or contribution to the greater good.



Spotlight on millennials

The preconception that millennials care more about working for the greater good than their pay is not true.

When millennials ranked the most important elements in their job, salary was first (60%), work/life balance second (54%), job security third (43%) while an organisation’s mission and purpose featured 12th in the list, having been chosen by only 12% of millennials.

There is also a disconnect between workers’ motivations and their workplace reality. 70% said they wanted to play a part in their organisation’s growth and success and 67% think their employer has a clear purpose and mission… but less than one third (31%) find their employer’s mission and purpose inspirational.


The Indeed View

While it would be easy to assume that purposeful work would be doing a job that is geared towards the ‘greater good’, our survey strongly shows that this is not the case. Quite simply, to do purposeful work, we need to feel that we are performing well. So, for employers, taking the time to help employees thrive at work will fulfil the purpose that many feel they want to get from their job.