By Derek Irvine
Recently, more and more attention is being paid to the notion of happiness at work. Once considered too soft, a growing body of evidence from WorkHuman speakers, our own research and from leading academic scholars suggests real and tangible benefits that include greater performance and well-being.
This increased attention is also shining a spotlight on several interesting offshoots from the main body of academic research, which can provide some valuable insights for organizations. One such area out of Cambridge University was profiled in a recent article in the New Yorker and examines the concept of “personal projects.”
As it turns out, happiness at work may be achieved through these personal projects when they are both core to the individual and aligned to a company’s values. Reinforcing natural human tendencies toward core projects can help achieve both greater meaningfulness and productivity at work.
So what are personal projects, and what makes them core to an individual?
As research suggests, personal projects are a way to think about and group together the daily activities that people engage in, ranging from trivial goals to those that can span an entire lifetime. Most people have around 15 projects at any given time, and they can be peripheral and temporary or an essential component of one’s identity at work or at home. Core projects mostly fall into the latter category, giving meaningfulness and a sense of striving to our actions.
These core projects are a big part of what makes us human and motivate us. They are also what can drive greater happiness at work (in the form of eudaemonia, or “happiness as striving towards fulfillment”), in turn contributing toward more positive outcomes.
One of the goals for organizations seeking to make work more human is to encourage the types of core projects that align individual striving with organizational purpose and values. Doing so enables individuals to bring their whole selves to work, bringing the entirety of their unique skillsets, abilities and mindsets to bear on challenges or problems.
When core projects are aligned with the organization, mutual growth by the individual and the organization can occur.
On a practical level, there are a number of ways that organizations can encourage the core projects of individuals. Regular feedback from managers, recognition from peers, and developmental opportunities can all contribute to helping employees make progress towards the goals of their core projects.
How does your organization support some of your core projects?