In Love or Burn Out: Why Loving Your Job is Key to Retention and Reducing Burnout


Those four little letters… you know the ones L.O.V.E. Sometimes they can be hard to say, even to your nearest and dearest, so you‘ll have to forgive the audacity when I say we need to love our jobs. However, it may be the antidote to soaring attrition in the workplace. A 2022 report conducted by Smaart Recruitment found that 45% of employees are considering leaving their jobs because they’re dissatisfied with - wait for it... the work they do. Yes, you read that right, their work!

Right now, I can hear all the collective sighs of relief from managers, who for decades have been blamed (and in many cases responsible) for being the top driver for people to leaving their jobs. But what was once a matter of ‘changing the manager’ or ‘changing the manager’ now is a seemingly much bigger challenge. Employees it seems, are leaving because of a lack of purpose and meaning. This requires organisational changes and a redesign of how roles are developed and sold to prospective employees.

Why it Matters

You might be thinking, “I don’t love my job, but it pays the bills and has good benefits. Isn’t that good enough?” For seasons of your life, it may be—there are times when you might be in a pinch and need to take a job for pure financial reasons.

But if we’re talking about optimising employee engagement and reducing burnout, then yes, it does matter if you love your job.

Now I’m not talking about loving every single aspect of it. Even the best jobs (travel writer, food critic, or chocolate taste tester all come to mind…) have parts that you wouldn’t like. We have to accept that no job is perfect, but it is possible to find something that you genuinely enjoy, plays to your strengths, and provides purpose and meaning.

The less you like your job, the less likely you are to stay—that’s obvious. The question, then, becomes: how do you find or create a role to love? Both employees and employers have a part in it.

What Employees Can Do

Each of us are responsible for finding or building a job we love. There’s a lot that a manager or employer can do to help build an excellent workplace—more on that later—but everyone is responsible for their own happiness and have the human agency when it comes to work.

Here are some things employees should do when trying to find or build a job they love:

  • Play to your strengths. For each job you consider, look carefully at the job description, and analyse if it allows you to utilise your strengths. Tools like the CliftonStrengths Assessment will help you determine what those strengths are and how you should incorporate them into your roles.

  • Focus on the company and approaches, not just the role. I see examples like this all the time - two customer service jobs have the same job description, but one company fosters a sense of autonomy, ownership, and purpose, while the other gives the employee a script to read. Focusing on the company and their values often helps with understanding their approaches to tasks. If that is unclear, then ask about how they approach situations. Interviews are a two-way street, so hit them with a STAR question (Situation, Task, Action, Result).

  • Seek inclusive workplaces. Look for companies that want to employ you and all you bring to the organisation, rather than just the work you can do. Company websites and Glassdoor reviews are good starting places. And should you get an interview, the questions should include a genuine interest in getting to know you, not just how you respond to situations.  

  • Choose role design over title. Take it from experience, happiness does not just come from a title, but from job design. I’ve had great titles with horrible job design and some… ok titles with amazing job design. I was always happier in the latter. The lesson I learned was - Don’t let your ego get in the way of your happiness.

  • Do what you enjoy. Ask yourself what percentage of the job is doing what you enjoy. When you’re doing something you love that aligns with your strengths, you are more likely to have fun, feel good, and laugh—all of which give you a dopamine hit and endorphin boost. These “feel-good” chemicals help with learning, problem solving, and coping skills.

What Managers Should Do

While it’s up to each individual to choose and stay in a job they love, there’s also some responsibility on the employer. If they care about retention and hiring top talent, employee engagement must be top-of-mind!

However, you can’t make someone love a job or anything or anyone for that matter. Love cannot be pushed onto someone. Love works in the entirely opposite way. Love pulls people towards. So how do you create roles and environments that pull people towards you? Here’s some suggestions on what to focus on:

  • Design roles based on skills. Managers need the right people for the job, which involves aligning strengths not just skills anyone can learn and apply to day-to-day tasks. Design jobs around those strengths so that they attract the right employees. The strengths that work best in the role should be clearly communicated in the job ads and role descriptions.

  • Regular check-ins. Short, purposeful, and authentic check-in meetings are a valuable piece when it comes to employee engagement. Check-ins allow employees to express their challenges and needs, and it gives the employer a chance to address them. Or, as this article puts it: “Check-in meetings reinforce key drivers of employee engagement.”

  • Provide learning and development. Opportunities for growth, knowledge, and development shows employees that they are valued. It also instils a sense of purpose and meaning into the work. Studies back this up, too—74% of workers in one study felt they were not achieving their full potential due to a lackof development opportunities.

  • Just ask. One of my favourite sayings is “closed mouths don’t get fed”. So much of employee engagement comes down to simple, genuine conversation. Ask employees what percentage of the job they enjoy, and then focus on designing the work to increase that percentage.

I’m passionate about all-things employee engagement, the future of work, and job design because I want more people to be able to say, “I love my job.” If we can focus not ONLY on each individuals’ skills but also their strengths, and passions, and then purposefully design roles to meet that, we will be well on our way to getting there.

When we prioritise employee engagement and the love of the work, retention will increase, and burnout will decrease. And I think that’s a good reason to keep talking about this.

By Luke Jamieson

Keywords: Culture, Customer Experience, Future of Work

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