When we feel like our work really matters, we’re more engaged with it. So, what does it mean if you’re not? You’re not alone, 87% of people worldwide who report not feeling engaged on the job. Many of us could feel like it’s normal to ‘check out’ during our working day, heading home without feeling challenged, or fulfilled – like we haven’t accomplished anything. It doesn’t have to be this way.
In order to catalyse engagement, we need small wins – these include; having a sense of autonomy; making regular, meaningful progress; readily feeling positive emotions; and experiencing flow. With these in mind, what practices within our day-to-day can we include to help ourselves feel more engaged? And importantly, how can we get into a state of flow, where our work doesn’t feel like “work” most of the time?
Find the places where you have choice
There are going to be moments in our career where we simply don’t have the choice. And that’s ok, it’s part of the job. However, we must recognise that there are also plenty of moments where we do have the choice. These moments are important, as they provide a sense of autonomy – the ability to feel ownership over the work we are doing, and feel like it’s our own.
Pay attention to the areas where you do have a choice, learn to discover and be mindful of these moments of autonomy – foster them, and allow them to be a part of your day-to-day. One example could be taking ownership over organising your workflow, and how tasks are completed. Sure, you might not be able to choose tasks you’re assigned, but you likely have control over the workflow and how to structure your time. Another example could be finding solutions for better work-life balance. Creating more space for personal priorities doesn’t mean you need to jeopardise your performance. Speak to your manager, with a list of potential solutions – agree on a plan together.
Celebrate your progress
Go on… pop a bottle of bubbly! It’s important that we celebrate our successes and milestones – no matter how small or large they are. The progress you make each day contributes to feeling more engaged. Researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer proved (analysing 12,000 diary entries from 238 employees about their workdays) that the most important predictor of a good day at work was making progress. “Even ordinary, incremental progress can increase people’s engagement in the work and their happiness during the workday,” they have said.
This is why we need to celebrate wins. Even the smallest wins feel good, and can inspire you to get more done. They also help counteract the small (and sometimes unavoidable) setbacks you may be faced with during our day-to-day. Setting aside the time to track your successes can be as easy as starting a ‘wins journal’ – a tool that allows you to take note of a handful of positive wins at the end of each day to look back on – leaving you feeling more engaged.
Create space (for flow)
Ever heard of a flow state, or state of flow? This is an occurrence when an individual is fully immersed in something. So much so, that they lose sense of time, and forget about the demands from the outside world that are not related to the task at hand. So why is this state of flow so important? It’s a sign that we are in love with what we are doing, and importantly – feel in control and engaged.
Entering a flow state can take practice. So what’s the secret? It’s everything to do with the what, where, and when. Firstly, it’s important to decide what task requires your full attention – one that has meaning to you. Secondly, where you’re doing this task can matter a great deal, choosing an environment you are most comfortable in, with minimal distraction can help. Thirdly, when you choose to do the task should be during the time you feel at your peak, energy and concentration wise. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t at first succeed, as with practice, you will find your flow – increasing your engagement at work.