Why should I be engaged at work? Give me one good reason!

Being disengaged at work can shave years off your life, lead to an early heart attack and cause you to fight with your family!

 New research out of the US is showing us that workers are becoming more disengaged during the economic challenges we are experiencing. One of the reasons for this disengagement is that many are feeling angry with their company for firing their friends or cutting benefits. Their reaction is to take power into their own hands and say I will get back at them by not working as hard and being disengaged at work.

Sounds logical, but are they hurting themselves more than the company?

There are 3 types of workers:

Engaged worker – has a strong connection to their job and the company. Constantly looking to improve their performance and move the organization forward. Are enthusiastic at work and boost the culture.

Not Engaged Employee - have "checked out", do the job but don't have any enthusiasm, energy or passion into their work. You could say they have quit but haven't had the decency to resign.

Actively Disengaged – not just unhappy at work but they are "busy" sharing that unhappiness with other people in the work place. They undermine the company and engaged workers.

Currently in Australia only 18% of workers are engaged, a whopping 62% of workers are not engaged and 20% are actively disengaged (Gallup). This costs our economy 32 billion dollars in lost productivity alone.

Focusing on the wrong thing!

If you look at all the literature around engagement it always talks about how the company suffers if employees are disengaged.

A company that has 4 engaged employees to each actively disengaged employee, grows 2.6 times faster than an organisation with 1 engaged to one actively disengaged employee. In addition, companies in the top quarter of engagement out earn companies in the bottom quarter by 18%.

You can't argue with those numbers, it is obvious that a company needs to have engaged workers.

What about the individual?

Rather than only focus on the company lets look at the impact of disengagement on the individual.

Among actively disengaged employees, 54% of them said that work stress caused them to behave poorly with family or friends (aggression, verbal abuse), while only 17% of engaged employees reported that work stress had caused them to behave poorly.

An English study followed a group of healthy men over 10 years. What they found is men who were engaged at work were 30% less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than employees who were disengaged at work. The findings remained consistent even when the researchers controlled for age, ethnicity, marital status, educational attainment, socio-economic position, cholesterol level, obesity, hypertension, smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity. What this means is that work attitude was the defining variable.

Engagement is also beneficial for your mental health. When you are engaged all you are thinking about is the present moment, you are paying attention to each detail and thinking "Can I do this better, faster more efficiently?" Research by prominent psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, found that people with chronic depression and eating disorders feel a predominance of negative emotions and negative self-talk. However when given a task to do that they are engaged in, their emotions and thoughts are indistinguishable from those of people free of these conditions.

In addition they found that the worst thing for people with depression and eating disorders is for them not to be engaged as their mind becomes occupied by depressing thoughts and their consciousness becomes scattered.

This is true for all of us, disengaged people in the work place often say that they are bored and disinterested. Pause for a moment to think what happens when you put two children in the back of a car and go for a long drives. After 15 minutes, what do you hear? "She hit me!" "He's on my side of the car!" "He teased me!" A disengaged worker is similar to these children in the back of the car because when not engaged their thoughts drift and they start looking for trouble. Office gossip, turf battles and in fighting is a fall out from a lack of engagement.

Can we start to choose to be more engaged in the work place?

For most people engagement is conditional, if my team are in a good mood I will be engaged, my boss didn't thank me for doing a good job so I wont be engaged. Obviously having a supportive and fun work environment makes it easier to be engaged. However research shows us that highly engaged people don't necessarily work in the best work places.

Start to think: what is your lack of engagement costing you?