Article written by Debbie Schultz
Could you imagine working somewhere where work life was so disinteresting that people were known to fall asleep at their desks? This happened so frequently in one workplace, HR had to add “falling asleep at your desk” to company policy as an act of serious misconduct!
Kevin Sheridan, in his recent blog, came up with the term Engagement Selfie, which sparked my thinking. A wonderful manager I have been working with recently told me this story, referring to a previous employer. She also explained that she couldn’t work out why, in the morning, everyone would frantically check their watches before getting out of the lift. She later found out this was to calculate, to the minute, how long before they could pack up and get out of there. Oh dear…
Engagement is not something that automatically happens to us when the environment is right…
Luckily places of work like this are rare these days. This example is astonishing and reminds us of the role that organizations have in creating engaging work environments, ones that allow us to bring our best selves to work each day.
However, engagement is not something that automatically happens to us when the environment is right. Engagement is a feeling, a personal experience that we are responsible for. This is important because it means all of us, every day, can pay attention to, and nurture, our feeling of engagement.
Let’s be honest even the most engaged of us have a bad day or week now and again. Our motivation has ebbs and flows – it’s natural. Think of it like this – we have all heard of absenteeism as a workforce metric. Some of you also may heard of the term presenteeism (referring to lowered productivity by those who come to work but are sick). I’d like to extend the definition of presenteeism to include lower productivity on the days we turn up for work, but don’t actually fully turn up for work so to speak.
Think of it like your body and only ¾ of your brain pitching up for the day. You are there, you are doing your job, contributing here and there, but not really firing on all cylinders.
There are of course a number of reasons why our feeling of engagement changes over time (changes in your team or type of work you are doing, or personal circumstances). Remember though that it’s important to fully own your feeling of being engaged, and understand that week after week of lower than normal engagement is a dangerous place to let yourself get to. Check in from time to time: “Am I as energized and connected this week as I normally am?”
If you are a little low on get-up-and-go start by checking off standard hygiene factors that make for a happy week, such as having clear priorities, having the right amount of work on your plate and having support from those around you, plus there may be others that are applicable to your work.
Then consider getting a firmer grasp on the things at work that get you excited, that get you looking forward to getting to work on Monday. It could be the thrill of having a complex problem to work on, if being challenged drives you. Perhaps it’s finding some small way to contribute somehow to the lives of others. Then make sure you have a little bit of that flowing through your work every week. Knowing what makes us feel engaged is important – if you are not sure, then you need to find out. Consider some analysis and self-reflection on what your career drivers, values and talents are.
Beware, there is a catch! Sometimes even if we accept we need a boost of energy and we know what our engagement drivers are, it may not be enough. We have to actually act on those ideas, and that bit is not always easy! The problem with taking personal action to get engaged, especially if it’s a substantial action, is that your motivation to act might not just come naturally, sometimes it takes a bit of energy and commitment to make it happen. Human nature being what it is, it’s sometimes easier not to act, not to exert energy to change anything, even if we know ultimately we will be happier and more fulfilled in the long run.
It’s a funny old thing, we want to feel happier at more, more engaged, but we won’t always feel like acting on our ideas to make that happen and if we sit and wait until we do feel like acting, well… it might never happen. Sometimes we just need to grit our teeth and throw ourselves into action however hard it is, knowing that the motivation to continue down our new path will come in due time.
Mel Robbins illustrates it brilliantly in her TEDx talk where she talks about the force of energy required to start doing something that will ultimately make us happier and achieve our biggest goals. She challenges her audience to set their alarm 30 minutes earlier than they normally would the next morning, and then make themselves get up as soon as the alarm goes off. It’s hard, we are warm and cozy getting up is a struggle! That natural resistance we feel, she explains is human nature and its the same force stopping us from acting on our big ideas. Watch the full talk here
You might recognize this in yourselves. You might keep convincing yourself it’s not the right time to put your hand up to accept a new and challenging project, even though ultimately you know you will be happier if you do. You might find reasons not to ask your manager for support with a new community project you are passionate about – even though it’s been your dream for months.
So if you need an extra boost, next time you prioritize your week build in one or two actions that bring that added level of engagement you know you need. Then make yourself act on them and I guarantee you won’t get caught napping at work any time soon!