The importance of our work to our health and wellbeing

work-identityCouple the amount of time we spend at work with the importance our work has on our lives and identities, and it’s perhaps no surprise that our work can have a big impact on both our physical and mental health.

The size of that connection was underlined by a recent study that was published in Personality and Social Psychology Review.  It reminded us of the importance of finding a job that matches our personality and the impact this has on our wellbeing.

The right fit

“This study is the first large-scale analysis showing that organizational identification is related to better health,” the authors say. “These results show that both performance and health are enhanced to the extent that workplaces provide people with a sense of ‘we’ and ‘us.'”

The meta study analyzed over 58 studies into workplace engagement and its impact on physical and mental wellbeing, with participants coming from 15 countries and a host of industries.  The analysis revealed a number of key factors supporting good health.

“Social identification contributes to both psychological and physiological health, but the health benefits are stronger for psychological health,” the researchers say.

In many ways this should come as no surprise, as having a fulfilled purpose at work is something that is a hot topic at the moment, not least by the boost it gives to our mental wellbeing.  When our colleagues not only help us to thrive at work but also provide us with communal support with our challenges then it provides an understandable boon to our health.

On the same page

Interestingly, the study found that the biggest boost occurred when we had similar levels of engagement and workplace identification as our peers.  For instance, if you identify strongly with your employer but few others do, this is much less beneficial than if your peers feel the same way you do.

Suffice to say, the study kinda poses as many questions as it answers, and the authors admit that much more needs to be done to test the findings out in a real-world setting.

They also need to do much more work to dig into the various factors that may support a strong attachment to our work, although there have already been a number of studies into this suggesting things such as autonomy can play a significant role, as can the leadership of the group.

Nonetheless, at a time when finding ‘purpose’ at work can still come across as a bit fluffy, it’s a timely reminder that doing so can have tangible benefits for both employees and employers alike.

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