What enables us to better experience our work as meaningful? The importance of awareness and the social context

Evgenia Lysova, Luke Fletcher, Sabrine El Baroudi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (SciVal)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Why does becoming more aware of yourself and your wider work environment enable you to experience greater meaningful work? Drawing upon mindfulness-to-meaning and interpersonal sensemaking theories, we argue that in a state of awareness individuals are cognitively flexible and are able to interpret relevant interpersonal cues in ways that enable them to experience their work as meaningful. Study 1 is a quantitative diary study over a period of six weeks that tests the state-level relationships between awareness, cognitive flexibility, and meaningful work. We find that awareness is, directly and indirectly, related to three of four dimensions of meaningful work via cognitive flexibility. Study 2 qualitatively explores what individuals cognitively attend to in the social context when they reflect upon the most meaningful work events that occurred each week, over four weeks. Findings reveal that ambivalent work events are experienced as meaningful when individuals attend to interpersonal cues in their work context that convey a sense of worth, care, and/or safety. Overall, our article advances knowledge about meaningful work as a state-level experience that is facilitated by awareness, cognitive flexibility, and cues from the social context. It shows the importance of integrating meaningful work, mindfulness, and interpersonal sensemaking literatures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1226-1255
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number8
Early online date7 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the participating individuals and organizations for their involvement in this research. This article draws on a wider project on meaningfulness that was seed-corn funded by the Richard Benjamin Trust (RBT 1509). We would also like to thank the Associate Editor, Dr Helena Liu, and the anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful and insightful suggestions for improvement, as well as Professor Katie Bailey who kindly provided friendly feedback to us on an earlier version of this article.


  • awareness
  • cognitive flexibility
  • interpersonal sensemaking
  • meaningful work
  • meaningfulness
  • mixed methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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