Beyond the Paycheck: The Importance of Purpose in the Workplace
Remote work continues to be in high demand, with almost half of the respondents in a 2022 Society for Human Resources survey saying they will "definitely" seek a full-time remote position for their next job. However, many companies are still debating whether remote work comes at a cost to their long-term success. Some questions that companies are grappling with include whether remote employees are as productive as their in-office counterparts and whether dips in employee engagement are the result of too little face-to-face interaction.
Studies have shown that remote work can lead to greater productivity and reduce attrition rates. For instance, a recent study conducted with programmers and marketing and finance staff found that working from home at least part of the time resulted in 8% more written code, a common metric for gauging productivity. Additionally, remote work can lead to fewer sick days and a quieter environment, boosting productivity.
However, there are concerns that virtual meetings can hinder a group's ability to innovate and be creative. In-person teams have been shown to generate more ideas than remote teams when working on the same problems, according to research from Stanford. This lost creativity represents a significant threat to the bottom line of companies that rely on cutting-edge innovation.
So, does this mean that employees need to be in the office all the time, or should leaders rethink their approach to virtual work sessions and how they engage people across geographies? With so many workers demanding flexibility, focusing on dragging them into the office might be a waste of energy. Instead, leaders should focus on the root causes of why employees stay, engage, and contribute their best talent.
When we think about it this way, the debate around remote work is almost tangential to the conversation around what motivates people in the first place. According to a 2019 survey, nearly two-thirds of respondents said that their personal principal driver at work is the belief that their work has purpose and meaning. Meanwhile, just as many executives have said that having a sense of purpose beyond the daily commercial mission made them more able to innovate, disrupt, or respond to disruption.
Peter Drucker, the great pioneer of management theory, argued that for innovation to sustain itself, we need a sense that what we are doing really matters. "Innovation requires hard, focused, purposeful work," he said. To keep taking creative risks in the face of the potential for failure, workers need to believe that what they are doing is meaningful and impactful.
In light of this, the question isn't "Where are people working?" The question is "Why, beyond a paycheck, does the work really matter to them?" Injecting more meaning into how employees relate to their jobs and to one another can make it matter less where those employees are located.
At Straightline Consulting Group, we specialize in helping organizations develop meaningful and impactful work cultures that engage and retain top talent. Contact us today to learn more.