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Purpose-driven work vital to employee health

Working in a job with purpose can help employees fight off serious health problems and even make them live longer, according to Wolfgang Seidl, workplace health consultant at Mercer Marsh Benefits.

Speaking at The Watercooler wellbeing event in London, he said: "We know that purpose is what aligns us and energises us at work. It's an enormously good antidote to stress. 

"If you have purpose in life, research is unequivocally clear that you experience a healthier life and even live longer. You can keep Alzheimer’s at bay for longer because purpose keeps you focused. There’s a connection between body and mind that we often forget."

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Stress contributed to the poor mental health of an estimated 882,000 UK workers in 2021.

Other factors such as burnout, an ever expanding cost of living crisis and career uncertainty have only put more pressure on the workforce. 

Time management is a core part of purpose, Seidl added.

He said: "Purposeful use of time is a useful concept to overcome the tug of war between work/life balance. When you have purposeful use of time, you will surround yourself with work and things to do and people that enhance that purpose, which brings psychological safety."

A rewarding job will allow people to dedicate more time to their work, which will in turn have a positive impact on mental health. 

A 2019 JAMA Network Open study found that among a group of nearly 7,000 adults over age 50, those who scored highest on a scale that measured life purpose were less likely to die during the four-year study period.

Seidl added: "When you are deeply connected to what you do, you invest more time into it because you get that buzz from it and it plays to your natural strengths. These are the things that you’re good at that give you a buzz.

"You get a sense of accomplishment and a rise in self esteem – that’s what good work is for. Don’t put up with work that is injuring you physically or psychologically – its meant to be empowering."

Kirstin Furber, people director at Channel 4, said that companies should be doing their bit to impart a sense of purpose in the work of their employees.

She said: "If you’re asking someone to do a piece of work, let them know how it contributes to making an impact at that organisation. It’s a very simple thing. Connecting what people’s work is, really starts to give people purpose and meaning and a reason to get excited about the work they’re doing."

Seidl argued that an enhanced sense of purpose brings a sense of control, which workers have been lacking over the last two years. 

"You need a sense of control over your workflow. We got taken out of control in the pandemic, which is what hurt people so much. We have so much trauma we are suffering like the cost of living crisis. Human beings have to be able to cope with that and take back some control."

Listen to The Dorchester Collection's Eugenio Pirri on leading with purpose on the HR Most Influential Podcast here