What is your RETURN on WORK, Your RoW? a summer post by Matthew Hill

Its not all about the money is it?

Can your efforts in the office be measured in the same way as your equity portfolio, your buy-to-let house or the rewards of taking a holiday?

The following post promises to make you think, reaction and, just possibly, reframe your view on why you go to work in the first place…

]rewarding work "Hey guys, why are we so happy?"

A share’s return is calculated by comparing the year’s total dividend to the price of the stock and is referred to as its yield (a great and ubiquitous word.) Similarly, the net rent collected from your buy-to-let tenant is measured against the equity you have in the property.

The benefits of a holiday are more qualitative than the above examples – time away from stress, the chance to deeply relax and perhaps reverse some of the medical symptoms suffered in the previous months, the space to have a brilliant idea or to plan your next work strategy or clever invention.

The benefits are there but appear in a range of forms.

Measuring the Outcome of your work?

You could think about your salary and compare it with the market place and see how many pounds / euros  / dollars you are getting in a year. This can be satisfying of you are in the upper echelon and disheartening for the rest. You could calculate your money per hour (a very useful time management technique BTW – is the task you perform on Tuesday at 10.15AM worth your hourly rate or should you be outsourcing / delegating the work to someone appropriate to the money cost?)

Perhaps you have put in extra effort (representing a dilution of your money per hour) in the hopes of getting a bonus or promotion? This gives a different yield depending on the relationship between your effort put in and the resulting reward that comes out.

I am more interested in long lasting and psychologically measures – after all, the emotional benefit of a bonus or pay rise can last less than 90 days though the cost of those late nights and weekends will be felt for longer.

Need for Achievement

I work with high achieving executives in more than 30 countries and find that whether paid more or paid less, the happier workers seek intrinsic motivation though attainment, completion of tasks and solving problems. Getting the job done in a clever way, an effective way or a new way is of great value to them. This is their reward. As is working with great colleagues.

Need for Acknowledgement

Coming from the UK, which is not the most emotionally open and expressive nation on Earth this return cannot be relied upon. I meet many executives who are managed by emotionally stunted directors who would rather have a tooth extracted than give out enthusiastic praise and thanks for a job well done.

Often it is the peer-2-peer recognition that occurs more frequently and is valued more as well. There is sometimes more power, empathy and respect felt in a colleague’s kind words than those from a customer.

The Need to Belong

As used by the world’s armies, brotherhood, inclusion and earning your place in the team are sources of pride and accomplishment. Membership of elite groups and social rewarding communities are highly prized. Interestingly though viewed as competitive, the inner dynamics of such organisations tend to reward sublimation of ego and emphasize cooperation, personal sacrifice and, occasionally, “taking a hit for the team.” And the tougher the entry process the more rewarding the membership.

Would they let Groucho Marx join? And did they let you in?

return on work "Let's measure more widely…"

The Need to Give

Invisible help given freely to a customer can sometimes provide satisfaction that is priceless. My mother was for years a tough cookie teacher dragging reluctant and resistant youths to a 16 year olds qualification that in some cases, was the only piece of paper they left school with when entering the icy world of work. Mostly they did not say thank you. For her, the rewards have come later – her fruit and veg is cheaper and she has been given a store discount card normally only reserved for staff – all by former pupils. The greetings she receives from “reformed” boys and girls, now hard working parents provides a warm if belated return for all that effort she put in pushing her educational water up hill.

Bigger than you or me

These fascinating areas are not rewarded with money or universal thanks. Societal movements and bigger issues that are painful to view, difficult to resolve and are left untouched and un-discussed by the majority. Refugees, poverty, domestic abuse or the local dispossessed.

Collecting blankets and bicycles for those stranded in the Calais “Jungle”, helping with the soup run under Waterloo Bridge, staffing the shelters or working with care leavers to increase their chances of finding dignified employment at a living wage…

Those that volunteer for this work receive a higher order of reward. They are voting with their hands and their Saturdays to invest in a greater scheme.

The Nobility of an aching back.

Finally, and with full apologies to anyone feeling underpaid for their manual work, I feel a nobility and honest tiredness is experienced in occasional and voluntary physical work – painting, cultivating vegetables, building something or mending something. The soreness in my lower back is a sign of a simple cycle – work in -> result out. Sometimes we need to be reminded that the  work itself can provide peace and meaning.


Gaining emotional satisfaction from work is important. It can get us out of bed in the morning, put a smile on our face, and help us to build resilience against the inevitable tough days that come our way. The aim of this post is the ask you to reflect on the wider returns that you experience in work and out of work and calculate a more meaningful RoW.

So… Why are you going to work?



About matthew

Matthew Hill is a leadership author, coach and trainer with a passion for helping newly promoted managers become inner and outer leaders.
This entry was posted in Leadership and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.