How To Find Fulfillment In The Workspace

Everybody has emotional needs that should be met in some aspect of their life to enjoy a healthy, balanced, and enjoyable life. If those needs are met, it doesn’t really matter from where. However, due to the amount of time a person generally spends at work, it makes sense to try and find fulfillment in the workplace when possible. 

To find emotional fulfillment in the workplace, It’s best to choose a job that allows you to be your true authentic self while working with others and serving a purpose beyond yourself.

Why It’s Important That Your Work Fulfill Certain Emotional Needs

The idea that you simply trade your time for money at a work and then live your life is, to me, fundamentally flawed. It’s hard to get away from this sometimes, but I think being able to fulfill some of your emotional needs at work allows you to have a more complete and fulfilling life. On top of that, it takes the pressure away from other areas of your life to fulfill those needs. Consider if you rely on your spouse or significant other to fulfill several emotional needs. That’s a lot of pressure on that person, and also leaves you open to losing a single source of so much. 

For those reasons and others, I find that being able to find emotional fulfillment throughout all areas of your life (including work) is a critical component of leading a healthy and emotionally balanced life. But that’s really just one perspective, on the flip side of the coin, you might ask if the workplace is really even the time or place to be searching for fulfillment.

Why You Shouldn’t Need to Find Fulfillment at Work

I’ve already hinted that I think an ideal workplace would be one that meets as many emotional needs as possible, in addition to providing enough money and benefits to promote an active and healthy lifestyle beyond the doors of your workplace. That sounds great, but is it too much to ask?

Sure some people find their dream job and are energized by their contribution to a company they align with and a job that they’re passionate about… good for them.

Speaking from my own experience, finding a job that meets all these criteria is difficult. Quite frankly, feeling like I should be working at that kind of job makes every other job feel just a bit, inadequate. That stress that I should be in the perfect job is way more emotionally draining than it really ought to be.

I’ve worked several jobs before where I was more than happy to clock out for the day and be completely done. Time successfully exchanged for money, and now on to live my actual life. Frankly, I think this is how a big chunk of people view their job, and it’s how I’ve happily viewed my jobs up until a year or two ago.

I don’t know if it’s that I’ve been working from home for a few years now and all clear separations between home and work are gone, or if it’s one of the other thousand changes in my life, but that straight exchange of money for time to me now feels like a waste. It feels inauthentic to myself. It feels like ‘work me’ is a horcrux splitting my soul. Okay so maybe I took that a bit far, but you get the idea.

The upside to taking the approach that your job doesn’t need to fulfill you is simply that you have way less pressure to find the “perfect job” if one exists. You can view a job and a company for what it is at face value, and find fulfillment in other areas of your life. The stress of contorting your job into one multi-faceted all-purpose entity is a huge burden not only for you as a job seeker, but for any company that feels a collective pressure to live up to this ridiculous expectation.

Either way though, you’ve got a problem. It’s not like you’ll have any less emotional needs if you choose to not try and fulfill them through working, but you will have the flexibility to meet those needs elsewhere outside of the workplace. So regardless of whether or not you’re all aboard the “time for money” train, or you’re seeking more meaning and fulfillment out of your chosen occupation, there are things that you can do at work to make it a bit more enjoyable, and maybe even a bit more emotionally fulfilling.

What Is the Employer’s Role in a Fulfilling Workspace?

I think the most important thing to know about emotional needs in the workplace is that they’re actually important. I run into a lot of people who think work is for money, and the rest of your life is for fulfilling your emotional needs. The reality is that the workplace isn’t separated from an employee’s life, as much as we may focus on having a “work-life balance”. I think it’s more often than not up to the individual to find aspects of their job that help fulfill their emotional needs, rather than the responsibility being with the employer to facilitate that. With that being said, workplace culture plays a large role in this area, and that is something employers do have an impact over. 

Finding Happiness And Fulfillment

There are two trains of thought: find a job you love or love the job you have. They each have some inherent pitfalls. Especially here in America, we’re told to find our passion, chase our dreams, do the thing that fills us up and lets us become the best version of ourselves. That’s super amazing and maybe even possible for some people. For the rest of us, it can be a neverending journey of trying to “reach our passion”. But as any good bumper sticker will tell you, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

That’s why I find that it’s incumbent upon us to take the necessary steps to find fulfillment wherever we are. Of course, it’s going to be more of a stretch depending on where we are and what we do each day, but if Viktor Frankl can find happiness, so can we.

So if you’re searching for a bit more meaning and fulfillment within your workplace, there are some steps that you can take today that will allow you to meet some of the more universal emotional needs.

Emotional Needs That Can Be Fulfilled by the Right Workspace

There are several emotional needs that a person might have, all of which will likely not be fulfilled by a person’s workplace. With that being said, I think the needs that are most easily met at work are the following.

1) Social Interaction:

Sure, work acquaintances probably aren’t going to nourish our need for deep intimate social interaction, but just interacting with others at a surface level still is important. I know it can be tempting to keep everybody at at a distance and just interact when work needs to get done, but it doesn’t take much to connect with individuals just a little bit every day. I’m not saying to be “that guy” who is super unprofessional, but it doesn’t take much to ask questions, be vulnerable, and just have little moments of authentic connection with people throughout your work day

2) Problem-Solving

After working monotonous jobs that required no thinking, I can say that having challenges to overcome and puzzles to figure out is critical to sustained mental health. I remember one time I interviewed somewhere the interviewer said, “you seem like a thoughtful young man, but we need doers, not thinkers.” I was hired and quit two months later.

We face problems everywhere we go, and constantly coming up with new and inovative ways to overcome those problems not only keeps our minds fresh, but is also pretty good for our career competency.

3) Doing Something Well:

This can be any area of life, but I think work is an easy place to get this. We all need to feel like we’re good at something. Honestly it doesn’t even matter what. This may come down to pride, but I think there’s a place for that. We’re never going to be experts at everything, but when we can do at least something really well, it’s like a proof of concept that if we wanted to, we could become an expert in a different area.

4) Helping Others:

This is the icing on top of the cake if you can get this. If you feel like you’re actually helping others in your job then I think that is a big emotional need. I think this can honestly come down to perspective though. If you’re a doctor and you just stopped somebody from dying that’s easy. I’m a software developer at a bank, but I know that what I’m doing makes people’s lives easier. Funny enough a lot of what I do is improve other employees’ daily experiences, which might be helping them meet their emotional needs, which is helping me achieve my emotional needs! 

Key Takeaways

Whether you view your job strictly as a means to an end, or you’re longing for a job that will invigorate you from dusk till dawn, there are a few simple steps that anybody can take in order to find just a bit more fulfillment in their workplace.

Embrace social interactions at work – It’s easy to go through our days keeping everybody at a distance., but being vulnerable and connecting with others, even if it’s just a small thing, can make a huge impact.

Lean into facing new challenges – Learning to embrace challenges and grow from the experience is something that we can often shy away from. We often seek comfort, we want the perfect life without struggle, but that struggle is what leads to growth, and growth is critical to emotional fulfillment.

Take pride in your mastery – Becoming an expert in one thing reinforces the fact that you’re capable of being an expert. To me that is valuable in itself. It’s also more fun to do things when you’re good at them.

Focus on the value you’re bringing to others’ lives – If I’m being honest, it’s easy to not care about our job that much, but in nearly every job in every industry, the value you’re providing is improving the lives of somebody. When we can identify who our daily tasks are helping at the end of the day, it can make every task feel just a bit more fulfilling

We all seek fulfillment throughout our lives, and often in several areas of our lives. It’s not a stretch to consider that some of that fulfillment could reasonably come from the placy we spend a third of our lives. So even if you just view your job as a place you go to earn money for your “real life”, I hope you’ll consider leaning into your job a bit more and seek to find just a bit more fulfillment where you can.


James is an Air Force veteran and software developer. He's passionate about personal development and sharing that knowledge with those who want to learn. He loves to mentor students to land their dream job, and excel once they’ve got it.

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