Doing good and the importance of work


During this spring many have thought of own work importance and have compared own work to that of so-called critical areas. Definitions of areas critical to society are an external signal of the importance and significance of work in society. However, the longing for meaning is a very human need. How do we, in our work, feel that our work is important?

Researcher Anu Järvensivu has identified the longing for the importance of work as one of the motivating factors that can get a person to do multiple jobs in parallel or alternately. We have also found that many are looking for importance in their work. We have studied how self-employed and micro-entrepreneurs work to preserve the experience of the importance of work in everyday life.

Entrepreneurs have several ways to make their work important for themselves. In this blog post, we highlight helping others as one of the ways. In previous studies, it has been named as one of the basic pillars of the importance of work. The feeling that one can be helpful or useful to other people makes many people find their work very meaningful. Helping can be done either directly through one’s work, or the work can do something for the common good on a larger scale.

The entrepreneurs we surveyed said they treat customers as people whose trust they gain by entering a customer relationship and whom they can help through their work. They advised their customers on the just-right service or product. The home service entrepreneur described how he gets to know his clients and how to support them. The coaching entrepreneur spoke of the experiences of joy as the customer progressed toward their own goals. The entrepreneur in the welfare sector, on the other hand, found it rewarding when he was able to direct customers forward to his colleagues, so they could get the assistance they need. All these ways of helping supported entrepreneurs’ sense that their work is important. The trust showed by others and the opportunity to help others have shown entrepreneurs how important their work is and gave a feeling of success.

Helping others discover the meaning and good in their lives has provided a degree-deeper way to experience the importance of one’s work. This deeper level of helping others required empathy and ability to listen to others — the super-skills of modern working life. The coaching entrepreneur described the goal of his work as helping the client toward inner change and a good life. The beauty entrepreneur described this more casually as compassion to customer’s joys and sorrows. An entrepreneur providing staff development services said that his career has been driven by a desire to influence and bring change for the better to the organizations he works for.

Realizing the importance of your work is a happy and desirable thing. However, overemphasizing the purpose of the work may mask the drawbacks. An entrepreneur may be so anxious to serve others that he is underpricing his work, which can lead to livelihood difficulties. Helping others can also threaten your well-being if you focus on supporting your clients’ well-being at the expense of your endurance. Some of the entrepreneurs had been disappointed to find that, despite their good intentions, they had failed to bring lasting change in the direction they desired.

If the burden of doing good becomes too heavy, it may be worth changing perspectives.

Work certainly doesn’t feel as meaningful every day, and not all tasks are inspiring in meaningful and important work either. Sometimes you can permit yourself to think of work coldly as “just work,” and maybe invest in other areas of life to do good to your fellow human beings or the world.


Sara Lindström & Heli Ansio