A hospital worker has the most satisfying job in the world — You'd be surprised which one

Why do we work? The obvious answer is to make a living. But is this the whole answer?

When people who feel truly fulfilled by their job are asked why they do their work, money is rarely part of their answer, according to Barry Schwartz, PhD, a psychologist. In his article published by TED Talks, Dr. Schwartz said the list of nonmonetary reasons people give for doing their work is both long and compelling.

Satisfied workers are engaged in their work. They have autonomy and discretion, and they achieve a level of mastery or expertise. They learn things that help them develop as better workers and people. Most importantly, satisfied workers find the work they do meaningful — they believe they make a difference in the world and help touch other people's lives in positive ways.

In contrast, the overwhelming majority of the world is dissatisfied and disengaged in their jobs. A Gallup survey published in 2013 found only 13 percent of workers feel engaged by their jobs.

While many people believe that a routine, pay-driven, soul-killing job is the price we have to pay to live in the world, Dr. Schwartz argues nearly everyone wants more from work than just a paycheck, and the conditions of our jobs play a large role in determining if more is available. This is the underlying concept of his book Why We Work.

Furthermore, it is not just professionals — such as physicians, lawyers or teachers — who are satisfied by their work. According to Dr. Schwartz, many nonprofessionals go beyond their job descriptions to make a meaningful impact in their organizations and in the world.

For instance, an unlikely category of hospital workers expressed surprisingly high satisfaction in their jobs, according to an excerpt from Dr. Schwartz' book.

Luke, a pseudonym for a custodian in a major teaching hospital, has a long list of responsibilities in his job description, including "collect and dispose of soiled linen" and "stock restroom supplies." Not a single item on the list requires him to interact with another human being.

However, after completing in-depth interviews with Luke and other hospital custodians, researcher Amy Wrzesniewski, PhD, discovered the custodians' "official" duties were only a small part of their jobs, and a large part was to make the patients and their families feel comfortable. The janitors told stories about times they cheered patients up when they were feeling sad, when they encouraged them or diverted their attention from their pain and fear and gave them a willing ear if they felt like talking.

Luke and the other custodians wanted something more from their custodial work. What they sought was shaped by the goals of the organization: to promote health, cure illness and relieve suffering. These aims were embedded in their approach to their job.

Two other janitors, also under pseudonyms, described their experiences at the hospital. Ben told researchers he stopped mopping hallways when he saw a patient who was recovering from a major surgery was up and walking slowly down the hall for exercise. Corey told them how he ignored his supervisor's instructions to vacuum a visitors' lounge while a patient's family members, who had been at the hospital for days, were napping.

The remarkable thing Dr. Wrzesniewski and her fellow researchers discovered about Luke and his colleagues was that they understood and actualized these aims in spite of their job descriptions, not because of them. The jobs they did on a daily basis were ones they had carved out for themselves in light of the organization's mission.

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