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Mattering at Work

Vicky Peel, April 2, 2024

Mattering at work

Preparing my shout outs and accolades to colleagues for our Company Meeting at Unboxed, I’ve been thinking about how important it is to feel we really matter at work: that we are recognised and acknowledged by our colleagues and leaders for the work we do and the efforts we make as an organisational community. Some of us might not always feel comfortable with public accolades per se. But having a colleague tell me why something I’ve done has had a positive impact, and knowing that they really mean it, makes me feel good and motivates me.

Why it matters

A lack of ‘mattering’ has negative consequences for our mental wellbeing and our productivity. It is one of the biggest contributors to burnout, stress and workplace disengagement. Being recognised by our colleagues and leaders for the work we do and the contributions we make is important. We want to feel personally valued. And we want to know that we are adding value to our workplaces, to our clients and to our wider communities.

A recent article in Forbes magazine suggests that mattering “unlocks a potent mix of psychological and motivational fuel.” People are more satisfied with their jobs and personal lives. They are more likely to look for leadership opportunities and less likely to leave their jobs. Significantly, they are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and burnout. We’ve probably all had a workplace experience where we don’t feel that what we do either matters to anyone, or that we are recognized for our efforts. And this doesn’t feel good.

People at Unboxed

At Unboxed, our people are our greatest asset. We work hard to make sure we build an environment where people get recognition, feel valued and have opportunities to grow and develop. We make space for, and encourage colleagues to express their gratitude to others. Saying thank you has a big impact. And going the extra mile to offer an insight into the behaviours and strengths that you see, demonstrates the value and impact someone is having. It tops up our personal and collective bank of positive emotions and makes us feel we are contributing value to our colleagues and our clients.

Saying hello

Building good relationships with our colleagues and clients is integral to the way we work. Part of onboarding to our culture is making sure we say ‘hello’ to each other. Or check in regularly with each other. Again, it sounds so simple. Do people really need to be reminded to acknowledge others or say hello? We found that yes they do - and we can all be guilty of this. How many times have you been so absorbed in a task at hand that you have not greeted someone who has walked into the office?! Simply being recognised by someone else can be as meaningful as more formal recognition. In our workplaces where we are often busy, plugged in or getting things done, it’s easy to forget the simple niceties of life. But they go a long way to making people feel connected to each other, motivated and that they belong.

Growth and development

The experience of the pandemic has forced a lot of us to re-evaluate our lives. Some may feel they have stalled. Opportunities for growth and development are key for keeping employees engaged, motivated and fulfilled. It’s important for leaders and organisations to make sure there are growth opportunities - and this can mean something different for every organisation. This can be more challenging for smaller organisations, or organisations with flatter structures. But following a vertical growth progression isn’t the only way. Knowing your people, what their strengths and interests are and what they want to do means that leaders can direct relevant opportunities to the right people. At Unboxed, we try to give people the opportunity to work on projects that really pique their interest. Or give them a chance to develop a particular skill they’ve wanted to work on.

Two of our core values are learning by doing and continuous improvement. We know and value the fact that people want to keep growing and learning in whichever way is meaningful or matters to them. It’s not always possible for sure. In a small agency we don’t always have the luxury to do this. But wherever we can provide opportunities for growth and development we do. If there are project limitations then we’ll encourage people to mentor others or offer to support other team members. Or take an innovation day to explore an area of interest or product to build.

It’s something we should all do

The Fourth Essential of the Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing is Mattering at Work. This essential is grounded in the two human needs of dignity and meaning. Dignity is defined as the sense of being respected and valued. While “meaning” in the workplace in this context refers to the broader sense of purpose and significance of one’s work. Key components of this include building a culture of recognition and gratitude. Regardless of position, when people feel appreciated, recognised and engaged by their co-workers and leaders, their sense of value and meaning increases and they are better able to manage stress.

It’s not just for leaders to show that they value their employees though. And making sure people know they matter is not something you trot out as a tool to use now and then. It’s something we should all be doing daily and building into the core of our working culture.