90% of Americans would take a pay cut for a more meaningful job

Harvard Business Review recently published a report showing how Americans prioritize meaning in the workplace.

  • The report reveals how Americans increasingly regard meaningfulness as a critical component of jobs.
  • Employees who find their jobs meaningful seem to work harder and stay with organizations longer, the survey shows.
  • The authors list several ways employers can cultivate meaning in the workplace.

How much of your lifetime earnings would you sacrifice to work a job you find always meaningful? The answer is 23 percent, assuming you're like the 2,000 workers who were surveyed in a recent report from Harvard Business Review.

It's a steep number, no doubt, but it's not exactly surprising in light of data showing how American workers have, over the past decade, been increasingly expressing a desire for more meaningful work. The new report, authored by Shawn Achor, Andrew Reece, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman and Alexi Robichaux, builds upon past research on workplace attitudes in an attempt to quantify the changing ways in which Americans prioritize meaning in their careers.

Surveying 2,285 American professionals across 26 industries and a variety of pay levels, the report showed:

  • More than 9 out of 10 employees were willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work.
  • Only 1 in 20 respondents said their job provided the most meaningful work they could imagine having.
  • On average, the respondents said their jobs were about half as meaningful as they could be.
  • People in service-oriented professions, such as medicine, education and social work, reported higher levels of workplace meaning than did administrative support and transportation workers.

The employer's perspective

The authors of the new report suggest that employers who provide meaningful jobs to employees will see bottom-line benefits.

"...employees who find work meaningful experience significantly greater job satisfaction, which is known to correlate with increased productivity," they wrote. "Based on established job satisfaction-to-productivity ratios, we estimate that highly meaningful work will generate an additional $9,078 per worker, per year."

The report also showed that employees who work meaningful jobs also seem to work harder and stay with organizations longer:

  • Employees with "highly meaningful" jobs were 69% less likely to plan on quitting their jobs within the next 6 months, and also had longer job tenures.
  • Employees with very meaningful work spend one additional hour per week working, and take two fewer days of paid leave per year.

The authors suggested that employers can cultivate more meaning by strengthening social networks in the workplace, making every worker a knowledge worker, and connecting workers who find their jobs meaningful to other employees.

"Meaningful work only has upsides," the authors wrote. "Employees work harder and quit less, and they gravitate to supportive work cultures that help them grow. The value of meaning to both individual employees, and to organizations, stands waiting, ready to be captured by organizations prepared to act."

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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