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How to stay engaged at work during a crisis

Employee engagement has always been an important focus and in a time when results can make or break a business, understanding it has become even more critical. The challenge with engagement is it is multifaceted because human beings have unique strengths and think, feel and behave differently. Right now it is likely that our levels […]

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Employee engagement has always been an important focus and in a time when results can make or break a business, understanding it has become even more critical. The challenge with engagement is it is multifaceted because human beings have unique strengths and think, feel and behave differently.

Right now it is likely that our levels of engagement will feel up and down as we move through the pandemic. As it looks set to continue for some time to come, how can we keep ourselves and others engaged during a time of crisis? I’d like to suggest a place to look right now is how we are managing our energy.

Our strengths give us significant clues about our energy levels. Being aware of them can help us recognise what fuels and what drains our energy tank. Too much time running around on empty outside of our strengths can cause us stress, frustration, low energy and can potentially lead us to burnout. And when our energy is low, so is our engagement.

Research show us that when we use our strengths, we are happier, more energised, confident, motivated and engaged. Which means we are more productive, perform better at work and more likely to achieve our goals. According to Gallup, we are also 3 times more likely to report having a high quality of life if we have an opportunity to contribute our strengths everyday.

And here’s the thing – to be able to realise those benefits we have to meet the needs of our strengths and fuel them. When our strengths aren’t fed we get grumpy, stop growing and ultimately run out of energy.

Here are some things to think about so you can become more self-aware about what your strengths need so you can be more energised, motivated, and engaged:

Step 1: Think about the day to day tasks you have perform and write them down.

Step 2: For each task consider where this falls for you in terms of:

You can do it well, but it doesn’t excite you. Whilst you might assume that strengths are the things you are good at doing, it’s not necessarily the case. You might have learnt to be good at something, yet it can take you quite a long time to muster up the energy and enthusiasm to do it. It feels like a chore whilst you’re doing it and after you have done it you find you have little motivation or energy left for anything else.

You dread it and wish you never had to do it again. You absolutely put this off until it becomes a necessity. These are the types of task and activities that sit at the bottom of your ‘To Do’ list. It feels really draining to do it, you continue to feel drained after you have done it and your mood feels low. You are trying to perform this from a place of weakness – something you are not naturally good at.

You want to do these things and love doing thembut they may add little or no value to your organisation and are a distraction from what you really need to be doing. It’s important to recognise that: we are motivated to chase the energy of our strengths because it makes us feel good! So be really honest about what you might be spending time on because you’re fuelling your own needs, rather than what is of value to your organisation and the role you are there to fulfil.

You feel productive, energised, engaged and ‘in flow’, losing track of time as you become absorbed in the activity. Here you are productive and adding value. Even if you feel tired when you are finished, you feel enthusiastic and happy. You look forward to doing it again and your mood is high.

Consider what you could do about the activities that feel like and chore and are draining you. Here are some questions to consider:

  • How important are they?
  • How important is it for you to do these, or could someone else in the team do them? (Just because it drains you, it might be really energising for someone else who will then do it quicker, faster, and easier than you)
  • What complementary partnerships might you be able to develop with others to help you?
  • What could you stop doing?
  • If you must absolutely do the things that drain you because they are fundamental to your role, how might you sandwich them in-between your more energising activities?

Consider what you could do about the activities that are energising for you. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What could you do about the activities that you love doing but aren’t adding value to your role? How might you be able to ‘time box’ the amount of time you spend here so it doesn’t become a distraction for you? What could you do to satisfy the needs of these strengths and their needs outside of you day to day work?
  • What could you do to be able to spend more time on the tasks where you feel productive, energised, engaged and are adding value?

What might you be able to experiment with right now to learn and see what’s possible and what emerges so you can spend more time playing to your strengths and feeling energised? What do you need in terms of support, resources, and consent to make it safe for you to try?

If you lead a team this can be a helpful exercise for each individual member to do together with frequent check-ins that explore questions to give you more insight including:

  • What are you finding energising about your work right now? Which of your strengths do you think are being energised?
  • Where else would you like to be contributing your strengths right now?
  • What is stopping you/getting in the way?
  • Where are you feeling challenged?

A collective team exercise to explore insights around energy and strengths can help you think about where to reallocate activities and tasks to increase motivation, engagement, and productivity.

When we understand and apply our strengths effectively, it energises and empowers us to stay focused on a task for longer as we step into our flow. And if there was ever a time to discover and step into your strengths and what energises you and your team, that moment is now. 

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