On any given day, how excited are you about going in to your job? What contributes to your sense of enthusiasm and commitment at work? What is missing that would make your job something you could be passionate about and approach with more focused effort and energy? If you have ever thought about these kinds of questions, I encourage you to read a recent article in the June 3rd on-line edition of The New York Times entitled “Why You Hate Work.” The writers discuss the issue of employee engagement in today’s workplace, and cite findings from a survey done of more than 12,000 mostly white-collar employees from various industries, as well as Gallup studies and other research.
In today’s fast-paced world, it comes as no surprise that one of the reasons for the wide-spread lack of engagement is the simple fact that we are expected to do more in less time. The demands on us and our time exceed our capacity to juggle all on our plate. Competition for jobs is fierce and fewer workers are expected to produce more and more. And the cell phones, computers and Blackberries that many are tethered to 24/7 mean we can never really leave work behind. It is tough to be engaged when you feel exhausted, unappreciated, unable to focus on tasks, and have lost sight of why you do what you do.
Research has shown that we are much more satisfied and productive when our needs are met in four core areas: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Before you rush to your boss to demand a company gym, free counseling sessions, and an in-house shaman, consider how these four domains might be addressed in other ways. Taking the time to regularly renew and recharge at work has been shown to have a huge impact on creativity, health and well-being. This can be as simple as taking a break every 90 minutes to get up and walk around or stretch. I often coach clients in establishing daily “pause practices” that help to restore energy. Emotional needs at work are most impacted by having a supportive supervisor who cares about us (not just the work we do). However, taking responsibility for increasing your own self-confidence, interpersonal effectiveness and empathy helps to fuel positive emotions. The ability (and opportunity) to focus on and prioritize tasks greatly impacts mental resilience. Employees who are trusted with more flexibility to determine when and how they work showed more engagement and less stress (and got more done). And, even if your job doesn’t entail ending global hunger or fostering world peace, you can find ways to do more of what you do best and enjoy most. If making widgets is not your highest calling, perhaps modeling care and compassion for those you work with, or mentoring a new employee, or inspiring co-workers to join you in a community project might bring more meaning and satisfaction to your work day.
As you think about your own work, which of these domains might need attention to move toward full engagement? What would make you feel more energized, better cared for, more focused and even inspired? If I can support you in strategies and actions to work in more sustainable ways, and learn to better manage your energy in these domains, please let me know. Now excuse me while I take a break from my computer to walk around the block. My clients will thank me when I come back refreshed and centered and much more productive.
Sharon Keys Seal