What Made It Important To Write About Meaningful Work

Man's Search for Meaning

Why did I decide to write a book about meaningful work? While this was not a life-long dream, in retrospect, it had been a long time coming.

I spent almost twenty years working a wide range of finance jobs. Very often, especially in later years, I caught myself thinking that so much of what I was doing was incredibly outdated. Not only were the tasks mundane and repetitive, but work, in general, lacked fulfillment, energy, and joy.

I became interested in automation as a solution to the drudgery of many of those mundane and repetitive tasks. Robotic Process Automation, Intelligent Automation, Cognitive Automation, and Business Process Automation were some of the many approaches that were discussed at the time.

I took a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) course, and on the first day, I heard an idea that changed the trajectory of my career. The instructor mentioned that by utilizing RPA and reducing transactional tasks, people would be able to do more meaningful work. They would be liberated, empowered, and given a chance to grow.

I was intrigued, not by RPA, but by the idea of meaningful work. What was meaningful work? It almost sounded mystical.

Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning is my favorite book. This book had a profound effect on the way I view the world. Many people are currently referencing it as an example of how to deal with unimaginative suffering that so many are experiencing at this moment due to Covid-19.

I loved the book even before the crisis, because of my interest in Frankl's theory of logotherapy. The theory suggests that individuals can endure hardship and suffering through a search for meaning and purpose in life. Frankl developed this theory as a result of his experience at Nazi concentration camps where he observed how some people did not survive because they had lost hope of being liberated.

The word "meaningful" in the RPA course captured my attention. Frankl spoke about finding meaning in life, but how do you find meaning in work? Is there a distinction between "meaning in work" and "meaningful work"? How is meaning different from purpose?

These questions may seem philosophical and inconsequential, but before Covid-19, it was common to hear a startling statistic that 83% of employees were disengaged. That is not inconsequential. Not only does it reflect an enormous psychological issue for millions of employees, that statistic also indicated a major financial problem for companies from lost productivity, profitability, and innovation.

As of the time of this writing, over 22 million Americans have lost jobs due to Covid-19. Talking about finding meaningful work may be perceived as a luxury when so many people are struggling to figure out how they are going to pay their bills. However, meaningful work is not a luxury.

Work is a big part of our identity. It reflects our values and beliefs. Now is the perfect time to talk about meaningful work. We are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset our lives, imagine them as a blank slate, and start creating the life we want. Employers have an opportunity to commit to providing conditions for their employees to find meaning and purpose at work. My goal for this book is to identify clear and simple steps organizations can take to ensure their employees' work is meaningful.

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