Work Engagement - Your personal well-being gold reserve

July 8, 2019

Global monetary system used to be balanced and backed by gold reserves. When the currencies were facing instability, there was always the possibility to change the currency to gold. Gold retained its value and also acted as a medium of exchange. Gold reserves have been replaced by trust in the fourth industrial revolution. Work Engagement has become our mental gold reserves, whereas trusts acts as a fuel for collaboration. Job crafting is the modern version of gold mining. This leads to well-being and balancing with the job demands. Collaboration and communication are the leadership cornerstones building trust.

What is work engagement?

Work engagement is a well-being phenomena related to positive (work) psychology. The first pioneers in the research field were Wilmar Schaufeli and Arnold Bakker of Utrecht University. Work Engagement has been studied for more than 15 years .

Work Engagement is a positive emotional and motivational state and characterized by the three dimensions: vigor, dedication and absorption. Vigor is experiencing energy, resilience, and willingness to invest in work, and perseverance when encountering challenges. Dedication is experiencing work relevance, enthusiasm, creativity and pride in your work. Absorption is experiencing deep focus of concentration, the ability to engage in work, and the enjoyment of work. It might also be difficult to notice the time passing by and de-attaching from work. Work Engagement measures your mental well-being and your relationship with work. Not your relationship to the organization or team.

Job crafting - Mining your personal resources

Current trend of self-measurement and well-being is the 19th century gold fever of a knowledge workers. We live in a time when the most important wealth is our personal resources and well-being. We strive for improving our capabilities, resources and well-being based on quantified selves. Or at least most of us do. If our personal resources decrease, we lose the grip on work, the meaningfulness of work and at worst to life in general due to exhaustion or even depression (symptoms). This easily leads to a negative spiral at work as well as friend and family relationships. Hence, it is a necessity to take care of our well-being.

The mattock of a knowledge worker is job crafting. Job Crafting refers to the small and everyday changes made by the employee on her work content and working methods. These may include breaks, balancing work and remote days, developing tools and processes, and so on. Everything a person can actually change from a bottom-up to make their work more meaningful can be considered as job crafting. Job crafting for work increases our gold nuggets, that is, our job resources. The job resources are e.g. the autonomy of work, the diversity of tasks, the relevance of the task and the immediate feedback of results.

In addition to teamwork, the team or organization can design jobs or tasks (job re-design). Sometimes there is a need for mandatory top-down change projects by a team or organization leaders. It is not advisable to re-design top-down work because you may lose intrinsic motivation. This can have significant effects on the motivation and meaningfulness. Positive effects can be gained by developing the work resources i.e. clarifying roles and goals, participating in decisions, and increasing flexibility in working hours and places.

Trust - knowledge workers fuel 

Open collaboration and interaction leads to trust. Communication and leadership must be clear, systematic and honestly transparent. There is no leadership without open communication. Open and good communication includes vision, goals, tasks and responsibilities. The stories, not the numbers, create meaningfulness.

In organizations based on autonomy and self-leadership, the quality of interaction is further emphasized. Good interaction equals to leadership. Leadership is trust. The social resources of work improve the work experience of the job. We can improve the social resources with sufficient support from the supervisor and the work community, and by increasing the experience of justice. Often, just good manners and open team feedback are sufficient.

Work Engagement as your gold reserve

The global monetary stability mechanisms was secured by the trust. Sometimes the unbearable demands of the work and of the supervisor either consume or strengthen our resources. In the worst case, we end up in imbalance of job demands and our resources. Instead, we should all aim for balance. In this case, the challenging demands give you positive energy, and thus develop ourselves. At the same time, we increase our personal resources.

Trust in the supervisor and work community accepts failure. In this case, failure is a learning and development experience. Work engagement and trust is your gold reserve - the stability mechanism. You can dig out gold nuggets from your bag to strengthen your well-being at work. On the whole, it supports your mental well-being and brings resilience at the time of changes and crises. Work Engagement consists of both personal and work resources. The development of resources must be continuous and everyone is accountable of their own resources. Balance brings stability. Trust increases equilibrium.

The Work Engagement as your shock buffer

The currency system volatility can be caused either by  internal or external international shocks. The volatility and value of any asset is an objective interpretation by the market. Similarly, the starting point for developing well-being at work should begin with measuring the right things. Work Engagement is your shock buffer - the guarantee for stability - for both internal and external changes. People who experience high work engagement are resilient to change and survive crises faster. They also learn faster and are able to adapt their activities to the new situation.

At the time of crises or major changes, you can buffer your energy to adapt and survive the shock.  Work engagement has also been studied under certain conditions to prevent work exhaustion. People and teams in high work engagement return to same or higher level of engagement as before the change quickly and with the support of each other. Work engagement is also known to “spill” from person to another. Hence, only few people can get other team members back on a positive track. A good example of a recently published study was that persons in Nordea learned new technologies and tools faster than others and avoided the so-called "Techno-overload".

Your gold nugget reserves

Craft yourself to be a collection of gold nuggets. Take care of your value. Be the collection that you can constantly develop and carry with you proudly in your everyday life. When facing challenges, dig down your bag and craft your way back on the positive track. Or, use your buffers to slowly make a comeback. Give away and share your gold nuggets with your colleagues and family. Remember to recover and strengthen your resources. This is how you create a meaningful positive and flourishing culture around you.

Originally published and modified from the Finnish blog post https://www.bonfire.fi/tyon-imu-muutosjohtamisen-kultavaranto/.

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