Meaningful employment

As employers, we need our people to be focused on the job at hand, and to be present – if not in body, then at least in spirit – while they work. Whether they are office-based or work remotely, they need to be able to concentrate on what they are paid to do. But are we missing a trick if that’s all we expect them to do?

While most employees are required by contract to do the work set out in their job descriptions our teams, staff, people – however you choose to refer to them – will be happier if they have our support to spend some of their time, and energy, doing the things that make them happier including learning and developing new skills. They need to feel that their work time has meaning and purpose.

Businesses can benefit from employees feeling empowered, too. Google’s ‘20% time’ model, which encourages employees to dedicated 20% of their time to work on projects other than their ‘day job’ to help them think creatively and innovatively, is a well-known example. This approach enabled the creation and implementation of new projects, including what we now recognise as Gmail. It also helped the Google workforce feel able to improve their knowledge and skills, but naturally the business also had much to gain. Whether or not staff take up such an opportunity, and to what extent, is only partly the point. Having the option is a valuable choice with which to be presented.

Ultimately, it’s up to any employer to decide whether to allow staff to carve out time from the working week to develop business-improving projects and concepts and this will very much depend on industry sector and the nature of the role in question.

There is no question that, if staff feel undervalued and are not allowed to develop there is an increased risk that their health will suffer. During mental health awareness week in particular, it is worth drawing attention to this point. So, the best practice advice would be, give your people room to grow, and room to breathe. Help them to feel that their time working with you is meaningful.

David Greenhalgh

David Greenhalgh

Partner – Employment

+44 (0) 20 7580 5721

david@joelsonlaw.com

This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.