The concept and role of meaningful work in the context of Pakistan – An exploratory study of junior doctors

Author Identifier

Abid Hussain

Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Integrated)


School of Business and Law

First Supervisor

Tim Bentley

Second Supervisor

Uma Jogulu

Third Supervisor

Esme Franken


Over the past decade, the concept of meaningful work has gained increased attention from human resource management, organisational science, and management scholars. This can be largely attributed to the growing global concern for the wellbeing and meaningful engagement of individuals in the workforce, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. The literature on meaningful work reveals that there are multiple perspectives and theoretical approaches to the conceptualisation of meaningful work which can be found primarily within Western societies and Western scholarship and are often based on Western worldviews. Most of the quantitative and qualitative empirical studies adopt a reductionist approach and tend to apply the postulates of a single theory and a small number of individual or organisational factors. These approaches have complicated the conceptualisation and hindered the development of a comprehensive theoretical approach through which to understand the concept of meaningful work.

This research explored how the concept of meaningful work is understood by junior doctors working in Pakistani public sector hospitals in the early years of their careers. Furthermore, it explored the role of macro, meso and micro level factors, i.e., the individual, interpersonal, work, job, organisational, and societal factors within the wider context of the COVID-19 pandemic, in shaping individual perceptions and experiences of meaningful work and its outcomes. The concept of meaningful work was explored through 43 semi-structured interviews followed by a focus group discussion. To understand the role of multiple level contextual factors on the junior doctors’ perceptions and experiences, a systems approach was adopted, and cohorts of different levels of participants, i.e., junior doctors, senior doctors, hospital management personnel and personnel of the Ministry of National Health were engaged in order to obtain relevant perspectives from multiple levels. Themes derived from the analysis of the interview data were triangulated with a focus group discussion and the existing literature on meaningful work.

This study conceptualises meaningful work as a process whereby individuals’ meaning-making is holistically influenced by integrated multi-level contextual factors. This research proposes the integration of the strands of different theories and the integration of macro, meso and micro level contextual factors for the comprehensive conceptualisation of meaningful work. The role of societal factors emerged as the primary influence of other factors and the perceptions and experiences of meaningful work in the context of Pakistan. This original research enriches our understanding of meaningful work, which is primarily a Western construct. It achieves this by proposing an interactive framework of contextual factors and integrating diverse theoretical strands within a comprehensive conceptualisation of meaningful work in a non-Western context. The research can help policy makers, leaders in organisations, and practitioners to foster meaningful work experiences within the workforce.



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