Opinion and Editorial

Do you work to live or live to work?

Wendy L. Patrick
Filed on April 4, 2021

When it comes to job satisfaction, workplace wellness involves engagement.

For many nine-to-fivers, workweek anxiety hits when the weekend is about to end. Anybody who can relate to this phenomenon would agree this is no way to live. Thankfully, research indicates there are indeed ways to change the mood.

Workplace engagement

When it comes to job satisfaction, workplace wellness involves engagement. Not the type of engagement involving a marriage proposal and a ring; engagement with your job. Many people joke they are married to their career anyway, with little time for anything else, which is not a healthy mindset for a variety of reasons. But the other end of the spectrum has its own downside. If you view your job merely as a way to pay the bills or fund your children’s’ college tuition, you are missing out on what can be a very positive experience. Because studies show that whatever your job responsibilities are, there are ways to improve your workplace experience.

Think about the tasks you do on a typical day — if there is such a thing for you. Are they interesting? If not, think about why not, and how your perspective might change. Talking with colleagues and working together on deadlines, projects, and assignments creates positive attitudes, promotes teamwork, and generates positive results.

Engagement prevents burnout

Erica Leeanne Lizano in a piece aptly named “Work Engagement and Its Relationship with Personal Well-Being” (2021) examined the associations between work engagement, life satisfaction, and overall health. Studying 133 social workers and human service workers, she found that work engagement was associated with better health and higher levels of life satisfaction.

Lizano distinguishes the “burned-out worker” who feels exhausted and disconnected, from the engaged worker who feels energetic and identifies with job responsibilities. Noting that scholars have distinguished between work engagement and related concepts such as job satisfaction and organizational commitment, she describes work commitment as “attachment and identification with the organisation,” and work engagement as “dedication, vigour, and absorption with one’s work”. Lizano further notes that job satisfaction involves work-related affect and contentment, while engagement refers to work-related mood, including for example, a feeling of excitement.

Having fun at work

Lizano notes that her findings emphasise the value of exploring workplace interventions that can boost feelings of dedication, vigour, and engagement of social workers and other human service workers. Notice the change in focus: Lizano suggests that instead of trying to achieve workplace wellness by reducing burnout, her focus is on giving leaders and organizational managers tools to increase work engagement.

Although Lizano’s study involved a specific type of employee, work engagement has been researched more broadly. Barbara Plester and Ann Hutchison, in a study entitled Fun Times: The Relationship between Fun and Workplace Engagement, found that some types of workplace fun provide a refreshing break, which stimulates positive affect, leading to greater workplace engagement. Organisationally, they note that having fun at work creates a sense of enjoyment, which in turn enhances workplace engagement.

Happy workers are productive workers

We are always reminded that we work at our best when we are well. Mentally, physically, and emotionally. Exploring ways to increase workplace engagement can boost both performance and productivity.

— Psychology Today

Wendy L. Patrick, J.D., Ph.D. is a career trial attorney, author, and media commentator.

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