Exercise and Engagement, Not Money or Apps, Keep Us Happy, Engaged At Work
In today’s competitive environment, almost everyone is always stressed or, at least, tired. With technology blurring the definition of working hours, glancing at the mobile screen has become a habit of sorts. We use the same device to check our levels of productivity and steps taken in a day—all in the hope that our work and health will improve.
Research, however, says we don’t need technology to achieve either.
A study, led by Curtin University in Australia and published in the European Journal of Work And Organisational Psychology, says people who have the ability to shape their own role, work collaboratively with their colleagues, and participate in mindfulness activities are more likely to stay engaged at work.
Give it a Rest
The research, “Work Engagement Interventions Can Be Effective: A Systematic Review”, which was co-authored by researchers from Sheffield University Management School in the UK, examined the different ways organizations can help their employees stay physically, cognitively and emotionally involved in their work roles.
Given the several advantages of work engagement, companies across the world invest heavily in it. Lead author Caroline Knight, from the Future of Work Institute based at Curtin University, says, “Employee engagement has been linked to increased wellbeing, organizational commitment, and work performance, but can also contribute to decreased burnout, sickness absence and turnover. It is essential for organizations to have engaged employees in order to remain competitive in the workforce.”
Part of the university’s research looked at whether work initiatives driven by organizations and senior managers such as leadership training, increases in staffing, or improved communication and feedback systems, were as effective on employee engagement rates as those initiated by the employees themselves.
What Really Matters
It found that employees who were encouraged to “proactively craft their own jobs, such as by taking on a challenging new work project, learning a new skill, or brainstorming with a colleague to problem solve, were more likely to stay engaged at work”.
The research also found that employees who participated in health activities such as mindfulness, stress management, exercise or relaxation programs were more likely to stay engaged at work, as these activities helped to reduce symptoms like stress, anxiety and depression.
Knight says it is important for managers to be supporting and endorsing activities that encourage engagement, as employees may be reluctant to give up their working time to take part in something which they are not sure is endorsed by their manager. "In addition, work engagement research suggests that employers and managers who are able to provide social support, feedback, and development opportunities for their employees, and help them manage their workload, time pressure, and emotional demands, are more likely to see positive outcomes."
A 2018 study, based on data from 1.2 million people, by researchers from Oxford and Yale Universities, says exercise can boost mental wellness even more than earning a higher income. Published in The Lancet, it found that while those who exercised regularly tended to feel bad for around 35 days a year, non-active participants felt not good for 18 days more on average.
There was another interesting finding in the study: people who are physically active feel just as good as those who don't do sports but earn about $25,000 more a year.
Clearly, money cannot buy you happiness or engagement.