What does 'good work' actually look like?

We’re now a few weeks into the work year – are you feeling happy and energetic, or flat and unmotivated?

We know that work can be beneficial for general health and well-being.

But what does "good work" and "good health" look like, and how do you know if you are achieving them?

The first big indicator of good work seems to be finding the right employer.

According to the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, an employer that engages with their workers, and engages with the community culture where the work is done, is vital.

For example, an organisation that connects with the community through donations, or offering a community noticeboard or employment training program, may also offer a good work environment.

Secondly, for work to be good for our health and well-being, it needs to be fair, and performed somewhere where discrimination and bullying are not tolerated.

It also needs to be balanced in terms of expectation, control over work and job security.

For example, an employer that expects its employees to have a life outside of work, and offers reasonable job security, is better to work for than one where the culture is "get the work done at all costs". Our relationship with work – and what constitutes good work – changes over time, depending on our period of life, and how this affects our needs and priorities.

When commencing our careers, we are often looking at opportunities for progression, and developing a range of skills to improve our marketability.

We are focused on promotion, on growth in income and on new challenges and opportunities.

At other times we may be involved in caring duties – for example, looking after children, parents or other friends and family.

We may prioritise work that is less demanding, and provides us with greater flexibility and work-life balance.

Of course, everyone is different, and what we to seek to achieve through our work varies from person to person.

But it is worth keeping in mind that work does have a big impact on our lives and, ideally, should leave us feeling better within ourselves.

So, is your work contributing positively to your health and well-being or is it time to look around and make some changes?

Dr Jodi Oakman is an Associate Professor in Ergonomics, Safety and Health at La Trobe University.