Work Engagement Is Declining Globally, Says The Harvard Business Review. Here’s How To Bring It Back.

Terri Davis magazine

The Harvard Business Review drew some alarming conclusions in recent research: “Levels of engagement at work are continually low and declining in some parts of the world. Earlier this year, the Guardian reported that Amazon warehouse workers are treated ‘worse than robots’ — running to fill orders and skipping bathroom breaks as they are monitored by electronic urveillance. Evidence of rising work intensification in many countries has been backed up by the media, including stories about the effect…on women, as well as popular books that bemoan demotivating work, and that identify the huge toll stressful work has on communities internationally.”

The lack of engagement and burnout and work dissatisfaction, says HBR, is due to positions and work that are poorly designed. The authors note that “work design refers to the nature and organization of tasks, activities, and responsibilities within a job or work role.” From a human
perspective, when people are given interesting work, the autonomy to manage their own tasks, and a “meaningful degree of social contact with others, and a tolerable level of task demands, reasonable workloads, clear responsibilities, and manageable emotional pressures.”

When the work is designed well, the benefits for employees include job satisfaction, engagement, improved home-work balance, lower job stress, better well-being, and an overall sense of purpose. For companies, the benefits of work well designed means you have a better
opportunity to get the best out of people, rather than getting more out of them. HBR reports that “job autonomy [is] one of the strongest drivers of employee creativity, proactivity, and innovation. But when work is poorly designed, the opposite is true. Jobs can become intolerable and demotivating — particularly jobs in which the tasks are repetitive and tightly controlled, or jobs in which the level of demand overwhelms people.”

In a competitive business environment, you need to decide if you want your business to live or die. To live means to innovate your roles from within, using creative thinking and empathy as drivers of profit, engagement, and efficacy.

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