Time reclaimed: the temporality of meaningful work

Catherine Truss, Adrian Madden

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


'Meaningful work' has been the focus of scholarly attention across discipline boundaries yet there remains little agreement over what it means with a general dearth of empirical studies in the field (Rosso et al, 2010). The potential relevance of the concept of temporality, hitherto neglected even in wider sociological studies of organisations (Pedersen, 2009), has not been considered in terms of the light that it can shed on the experience of meaningful work. In this paper we bring together these two disparate bodies of thought to generate new accounts of how work may be rendered meaningful to individuals through Ricoeurian notions of 'phenomenological time', whereby the present is rendered meaningful through its interpolation between the past and the future (Kenny et al, 2011), rather than the sequential limitations of 'chronological time'. We draw on a qualitative study of workers in two occupations with ostensibly distinct temporal landscapes, street sweepers and cathedral stonemasons. For both groups 'meaningful work' is bound up with 'good work'; pride in a 'job well done' emerges as essential to the experience of work as meaningful. However, the perception of doing a 'good job' has its locus in time and space with both groups 'looking back' and ‗looking forward‘ in relation to their present activities to understand the transcendent and meaningful nature of their contribution. The paper adds to the sparse empirical literatures on meaningful work and temporality in organisational sociology.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sept 2013
Externally publishedYes
EventBSA Work Employment and Society 2013 Conference: States of Work: Visisions and interpretations of work, employment, society and the state - University of Warwick, Warwick, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 Sept 20135 Sept 2013


ConferenceBSA Work Employment and Society 2013 Conference
Abbreviated titleBSA 2013
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

Cite this