Feeling checked out at work can happen to anyone. You get distracted in the middle of a project and, the next thing you know, you’re scrolling through your phone, texting with your friends, or even putting your head down for a quick nap! The brief escape may feel good momentarily, but once you regain consciousness, you likely realize that your lack of active engagement has some pretty negative side effects – and can even take a toll on your overall feelings of self-worth and self confidence, both professionally and personally.
Worldwide, only 15% of employees report being “engaged” in their jobs – according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report. This 15% of employees are beyond motivated. They are deeply invested in their jobs and are extremely loyal to their employing companies/organizations. They are focused on giving of themselves – above and beyond – to help the organization accomplish its goals.
The same study goes on to say that 67% of the workforce is “not engaged” in their jobs. While they are not considered “actively disengaged” (that’s the final 18% – who can contribute to a toxic work environment) – these “not engaged” employees are more or less content at work, but don’t feel any real passion or drive to invest more fully in the organization.
So what is different about these 15% and why should you want to be one of them?
Studies say that, indeed, being actively engaged at work is a good goal to have. Having this mindset is likely to benefit you professionally. The Gallop study showed that employees in this 15% were more likely to stay in their organization and move into leadership positions. Of course, upward mobility (and increased salary) is important – but having a job that keeps you engaged, alert, and on your toes will help you stay sharp and focused throughout your professional life – which is a great goal in itself.
So, here are 10 tips to increase active engagement in your job.
Find a job that uses your “signature strengths.”
Studies show that employees whose jobs play to their signature or character strengths (those strengths that are your most prominent and are at the core of your personality) are more satisfied and engaged at work. If you want to know your signature strengths (there are 24 total – and you can find out your rankings) – you can learn more here. If your job doesn’t play to your signature strengths – are their aspects of it that do? Are you able to focus on, and savor, those tasks to increase your general engagement? Or, do you have the ability to find another job – maybe even another field – that better allows you to flex these muscles and really express and utilize some of the core aspects of your personality?
Get in the zone! Find your “flow” at work.
Great athletes will often talk about “being in the zone” – and, for actively engaged employees, there can be a similar experience in the workplace. Flow is the feeling of being “at one” with your work – time passes without you realizing, you’re fully focused on the task at hand, you’re being challenged – but your abilities are able to meet those challenges. You feel fulfilled, happy, accomplished, and fully engaged. Flow can be felt by anyone in almost any activity – but employees who feel it on the job are much more likely to be satisfied at work. So find a job that allows you to feel the flow – or, at least, find moments in your job during which you can access this mindset.
Make your physical space work for you.
Everyone has heard that a cluttered space means a cluttered mind – because it’s true! No matter how big your workspace is (a desk, a cubicle, or the corner office) – making sure it’s clean, well organized, and clear of distractions will make a big difference. You need to not only value yourself, but also your work space.
Take breaks – and use them well.
Sometimes a five to ten minute break can reinvigorate us and help us re-engage with a project, especially when we notice ourselves getting easily distracted. Try to avoid mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and, rather, complete a ten-minute mediation, have a healthy snack, or do some quick yoga/stretching. That will keep your mind and body active – but still allow you to clear your head and return to work refreshed and ready to focus.
Aim for meaning – avoid busy work whenever possible.
Depending on your job, this isn’t always easy – but try to find ways to avoid busy work. At work, we can’t always pick what we do – but there are lots of ways to harness the power of technology to avoid mundane tasks. The more you’re challenging yourself – the more you will be invested in your work – and proofreading the same PowerPoint twenty times isn’t going to help you feel any more passionate about your job.
Change up your routine.
Just like in our personal lives, our professional selves can get into a rut. The same meetings, the same coffee break, the same boring chats with co-workers. Break out of the box! Take a walk, have a one-person office dance party, see if you can switch up your hours and try a different schedule. Testing out something new can be an easy way to revitalize your passion for the same old tasks – and see your job with a new pair of eyes.
Celebrate your accomplishments – and those of your co-workers.
Remember to take time to pat yourself on the back when you’ve finished a project or accomplished a goal. Too often we mindlessly move through our days without stepping back and appreciating the big picture – and how far we’ve come. Checking in with your accomplishments – and those of your colleagues – can help you feel more connected to your work and your workplace, which can increase feelings of engagement and motivation (to accomplish even more!).
Make SMART goals.
Without defining clear goals – time can march on without any clear purpose or aim, which is a recipe for apathy and decreased engagement. There are many ways to harness the power of goal-making, but one great option is to make SMART goals (here’s a quick tutorial). SMART goals allow you to be precise and pursue your objectives step by step – which will help you stay focused and celebrate the little wins on your way to larger accomplishments. Without clear goals, it’s easy for the mind to wander and lose focus – but clearly defined SMART goals will allow you to know where you’re going and exactly how you plan to get there.
Be mindful and grateful – remember your larger purpose.
Work isn’t always a pleasure – we know that. There are good days and bad days. And even on the good days – you would probably rather be playing golf or enjoying a day at the beach. Because of these universal truths, it’s important to take time out to be grateful for your job – and to remember why you are working. Does your job allow you to provide a better life for your child? Are you saving up for a home? Are you working to afford your dream vacation? Or maybe your job provides you with purpose and meaning? Or challenges you intellectually? Sometimes just remembering the “why” can help us become more invested in helping the organization that is providing us with this work, for which we are so grateful.
Remember to self-care!
We know that the personal affects the professional. If you come to work exhausted, after a night out, without having had anything to eat – I doubt you will be very engaged in your job that day. On the other hand, getting seven (or more) hours of sleep, exercising regularly, spending time with loved ones, eating well-balanced meals – and doing all the things we know make us healthier and happier – will put your brain and body in a much better position to be actively engaged between nine to five. To put it simply, self-care will also improve your self-worth.