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Our relationship to work

How does your relationship to work impact on your health and wellbeing? Find out more in this article.
© The King’s Fund

An important but often unacknowledged influence on our health and wellbeing relates to our personal beliefs about work itself. Where do these beliefs come from and how do they influence our attitudes, the choices we make, and even the job we end up doing?

We spend a very large part of our lives at work, and our relationship to it is highly personal and rooted in the circumstances of our lives. The influence and expectations of family and peers can be important to the choices we make about life, work, and the pursuit of a particular kind of career path; while our personality and sense of purpose and ambition also shapes our relationship to and expectations of work. But just as important to consider are the cultural norms we learn as we grow up regarding the value and meaning of different kinds of work, and the inequities and opportunities for work that cut through our society related to social class, gender, race, disability, faith and sexuality.

As a first step in exploring your relationship to work, please make a contribution to our  online gallery of NHS staff sharing their reflections on why they do what they do.

When you have finished, use your contribution to the gallery to reflect critically on your relationship to work. We have offered some coaching questions below to guide your reflections. Work through each in sequence, jotting down your honest responses to each.

  1. What do you value about work?
  2. Who or what have been the biggest influences on your attitude to work?
  3. What needs does your work satisfy? (These could be material, emotional, social or psychological).

How does this influence your:

  • attitude to your workload?
  • ability to say ‘no’ to your colleagues or ask for their help?
  • perception and expectations of colleagues’ work ethic?
  • willingness to share or show you are struggling?
  • beliefs about self care and emotional distress in you and others in the workplace?
© The King’s Fund
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