The other day, I came across a LinkedIn article with the kind of headline that just sticks with you. It read:
“Treat Your Employees Right So They Won’t Use Your Internet To Search For a New Job.”
Ha! I thought. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t done that before. I once had this god-awful internship that left me twiddling my thumbs so much I had nearly three-quarters of the day to do other stuff on the internet, like shop and peruse the darkest depths of Reddit. It isn't just me, though. A lot of people feel disengaged at work.
First of all, how do you know you’re disengaged? Well, a good test for it would be to see if you daydream a lot. If your mind is in two places at once, you’re probably not very engaged. I know that when I’m super into something I’m doing, I’m laser-focused on that one thing and nothing else. Another sign of being disengaged is feeling generally apathetic or lethargic, and not willing to work with your team because you just want to sulk in the corner on your own.
The Numbers are Kind of…Devastating
A 2015 Gallup poll showed that only 32 percent of employees in the U.S. are engaged at work. What’s even more harrowing is the percentage is actually lower for millennials, at 29 percent.
On The Dot’s exclusive millennial survey showed millennials don’t necessarily want to live to work; however, they do want to feel like their work gives them purpose and meaning. It would make sense, then, that if you’re at work doing your boss’s grunt work when you’re definitely overqualified for it, or you’re bored at your desk because you only had four hours of work to do in an eight-hour work day, that you’d be disengaged.
Only 29% of millennials feel engaged at work.
…And Employee Disengagement Is a Sign of Bad Management
A good company will not only recognize the disengaged employee, but will also recognize that a disengaged employee ends up costing it money. A disengaged employee is more likely to quit, leaving the company scrambling to fill his or her place. While an employer’s first thought may be to blame the millennial’s lack of enthusiasm at work on, well, the millennial, employee disengagement is actually a sign of bad management, not bad employees.
Marketing strategist Sonia Thompson says one surefire way to make sure you stay engaged at work is if you see how you are directly impacting the lives of the people you and your company are serving. If you start to see your customers and clients as actual humans, you’ll likely feel more fulfilled. Thompson writes:
“Data shows connecting your team to your customers increases their persistence, performance, and productivity. … Whether it is through live meetings, phone conversations, reading their emails, or seeing a video profile of them, even a small interaction goes a long way.”
Here’s How to Stay More Engaged at Work
Ask for new projects. If you have to stay somewhere you don’t feel challenged, learn to make the best of it by constantly learning new things to make sure you're using all of your mental energy.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew (protect your mental health!), and don’t think of taking on more projects as a favor to your boss, either. Instead, think of taking on new projects as a way to a) increase your attention and focus at work (thus increasing engagement) and b) a way to enhance your skillset. See, when we’re forced to learn new skills, our brains have to work that much harder and we’re not on autopilot, carrying out the same, monotonous tasks we always do.
Then, once you do eventually leave that place that doesn’t engage you fully, you’ll be much more hirable because you'll have beefed up your resume, and you'll probably find a gig that does engage you more.
Ask your boss if you can diversify your workspace. Did you know it’s scientifically proven that you will feel happier and more stimulated if you switch up your scenery? Yeah, I know that desk you sit at every day isn’t always the most inspirational place to be getting stuff done.
Get out of the office and work at your favorite coffee shop, or even from home. More people than ever are working remotely, and as long as you’re not someone that gets distracted by your dog or TV, you’re bound to enjoy your working experience more.
When you’re allotted more flexibility, you might just get more done, too. I know I’m more productive when I work from home for a few different reasons: I’m not eavesdropping on the conversations of the people sitting next to me (even though they're usually juicy), and I take little breaks from sitting for hours, which helps me clear my mind and go to the next task feeling refreshed.
Know when to look for another job. Sometimes, it isn’t you, and sometimes, it isn’t the work, either. Sometimes, it’s just the work culture. Maybe your boss is a total nut job and he or she is really messing with the morale in the workplace. Whatever the reason is that you feel disengaged, be able to recognize when the problem is out of your control and then do something about it.
Is there high turnover in your office? Is it just you who feels unfulfilled, or do other coworkers complain about feeling the same? If you can answer yes to one or both of these questions, chances are you it’s not you, but it's the work or the workplace. And if that’s the case, it’s OK to set your sights on a new job. (Just don’t use your company’s internet to search for new jobs.)