Thursday, April 16, 2015

Employees Finding Meaning In Work Can Benefit Companies, Employee Mental Health

© Kovacevic
Research reported on in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Stroke suggests that the brains of individuals who feel they have purpose and direction in life might age better than those who do not. The study suggests that having meaning might particularly help prevent cerebral infarcts, a type of stroke resulting from blood flow blockage to the brain.

“Purpose in life, the sense that life has meaning and direction, is associated with reduced risks of adverse health outcomes,” the study says

“However, it remains unknown whether purpose in life protects against the risk of cerebral infarcts among community-dwelling older people. We tested the hypothesis that greater purpose in life is associated with lower risk of cerebral infarcts.”
Researchers analyzed autopsy results of 453 people, 114 (25%) of who had clinically diagnosed stroke. At autopsy, researchers found:
  • Almost 50% had macroscopic infarcts (visible to the naked eye) or microinfarcts (visible with microscope).; 
  • Participants who had reported strong purpose in life were 44% less likely to have macroscopic infarcts. The study did not find a significant relationship between purpose and micro infarcts. 
  • The relationship between purpose in life and infarcts did not change when adjusted for vascular disease risk factors, including blood pressure, physical activity, depression and diabetes. 
  • Purpose in life was most significant in small infarcts in the subcortical blood vessels supplying deep brain structures; 
  • Alzheimer’s disease or clinically diagnosed stroke did not influence the relationship between purpose in life and infarcts. 
Meaning has an impact in the workplace as well. A 2013 Gallup report states that 70% of workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work, meaning they are "emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive."

To add insult to injury, a lack of meaning can also hurt employee retention. A survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review and consulting firm The Energy Project suggests that companies where employees find meaning and significance in their work can see dramatic reduction in employee turnover.

“Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations—the highest single impact of any variable in our survey,” says a New York Times opinion piece penned by Energy Project representatives. “These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.”

The full report on the research is available at the AHA website.