6 Ways to Stay Engaged at Work

engaged work

If the results of a recent crop of surveys are at all accurate, we’re a nation of disgruntled employees.

The majority of workers are not reaching their full potential, and about half are not engaged with their jobs, according to Gallup. One in three say their employers aren’t honest with them, according to the American Psychological Association. It’s pretty hard to stay committed to a company you don’t trust.

Some employers are getting the message, and stepping up efforts to retain and recruit employees. But the truth is, we’re on our own.

If you think there’s no point to feeling better about your job because you won’t be rewarded or you’re just too bored to care, you have to flip your thinking. You spend the majority of your time at work, so you might as well make the most of it. Here’s how.

6 Ways to Stay Engaged at Work

  1. Learn something new. People who spend time doing activities that spark their creativity outside the office perform better at work, according to a new study published by the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. You don’t have to write a novel to get the benefits, but even small bursts of creative work, say, a poem during your commute or drawing pictures in a notebook during a lunch break can reduce work-related stress. You’ll also be firing up your creative problem-solving skills. In fact, learning anything new–whether how to use a software program or build a SlideShare presentation–can boost your energy.
  2. Reclaim your strengths. Carson Tate, founder of Working Simply, a management consultancy, suggests taking a look back at why you wanted your job in the first place. Was there something you hoped to accomplish or learn? Was the company a good place to develop a network or to express a particular talent or skill? If you’ve mastered what you set out to do, it’s natural to feel bored. Recharge yourself by adding a new goal. Or focus more of your energy on doing what it was that attracted you to the opportunity.
  3. Express gratitude. Employees whose managers express their appreciation for their work feel more engaged. But if your boss isn’t big on compliments or positive support, develop your own ways of showing gratitude. Allow yourself to feel good about something you accomplished that day, even if it was only your ability to stay cool during a stressful meeting. Show appreciation for your team and other colleagues. Giving compliments feels almost as good, and sometimes more so, than getting them.
  4. Recognize your value. If you can’t rely on your boss to reward your accomplishments, look for other opportunities to share your expertise. Tate suggests speaking at a conference or writing a blog, or mentoring someone in the field you are an expert in. Most important, of course, is internal validation–acknowledging your efforts and talents and feeling good about the value you bring to your job regardless of how others behave. If you’re having trouble doing so, Tate advises you to think of compliments you’ve gotten lately, and let them remind you of what you bring to the table.
  5. Challenge the status quo. It’s easy to fall into a rut when we do the same thing everyday. Find ways to shake up your routine or your schedule. A small change—taking a different route to work, spending ten minutes a day reading a novel or talking a brisk walk—is often enough. “Simple acts of novelty spark our brains,” says Tate.
  6. Take a break.  Tate says many of the clients she works with who say they’re disengaged are actually burned out. “Think about when you aren’t getting enough sleep,” she says, “and everything is grey.” Successful, driven people often aren’t very good at taking a break—even when that’s exactly what they need to do to be more productive. “Rest is a four-letter word to a lot of achievers,” says Tate. Taking a vacation, a long weekend, or even an hour to kick back can refresh you enough to feel better about work, or find the energy to make changes.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and, among others.