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What we put into work, what we get out of it and how that affects our health and well-being

Work is about more than simply paying the bills. Feeling that we are making a difference and adding value is an important factor in finding satisfaction at work.



While determining cause is difficult, there is significant evidence to suggest that work does affect our health and well-being (see ‘Is Work Good for your Health and Well-Being?’; DWP, 2006[1]).  Research by Siegrist (2002)[2] explores the impact of ‘effort-reward imbalance’ where we perceive that what we put in is not equalled by what we get out of work and results in negative emotions and the risk of developing stress, depression and related physical ill-health. The absence of balance in effort and reward can further erode our sense of self-esteem and our sense of belonging. 


When starting out in our career it can be difficult to know what we might enjoy doing and not all of us feel a ‘calling’ to a particular vocation. 


It can be easy to slip into a career that fails to fulfil you simply because you aren’t sure what it is you love to do. However, there are lots of things we can do to create a more satisfying working life and work towards fulfilment both in and out of work. Below are a few of the things that help us to feel valuable, connected and satisfied at work:

Doing a good job – whether you enjoy it or not, knowing you have done something well brings a sense of satisfaction, so even if it is not a task you feel inspired by, get stuck in and do the very best you can with it. Nurturing your self-esteem in this way can enhance your resilience and help you through the challenging times.

Find development opportunities – whether this is in work through finding a mentor, learning a new skill or planning your future career goals; or out of work by investing in your personal development through clubs, volunteering or taking on a distance learning course you will derive satisfaction at working towards something meaningful. You never know, that hobby might become the career you love in future.

Get social – developing networks in the workplace help you feel like part of a team and have a positive impact on your social identity. They also give you another great reason to get to work each morning.

Get active – many organisations now offer subsidised gym memberships, or have running clubs, football teams and other activities you can get involved with. Not only does this keep you physically fit, but is a great de-stress and provides the perfect way to develop new networks outside of the people you may interact with day-to-day.

Fulfilment outside work – when we are not enjoying work it can be easy to let out of work activities slide too. Make sure you invest in hobbies you enjoy out of work as these can enhance your self-esteem and resilience when work feels like a slog.

Talk to someone – talk to your line manager or HR representative about your frustrations. Prepare for the conversation by jotting down the skills you feel you can offer and look for solutions rather than simply a moaning session. 

[1] Waddell, G., & Burton, A. K. (2006). Is Work Good for your Health and Well-being? Norwich: TSO (The Stationary Office).

[2] Siegrist, J. (2002). Effort-Reward Imbalance at Work and Health. Historical and Current Perspectives on Stress and Health, 2, 261-291.

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