Seven days in a week. It’s one of the few things we all have in common. From there, we all head in different directions regarding how we see – and spend – those seven days.
Some people devour them. They ring every ounce out of each day, enjoying every minute as though it just may be their last. Whether they’re working or playing doesn’t matter. They’re just happy to be alive, and they’re the exception to the rule.
Most everyone else – the clear majority of the people you encounter each day – make up the rule. They split their seven days into two categories: work and home. Work is the necessary evil required to survive and pay the bills, and home (or any place other than work) is the place they long to be.
Some people question how we ever got to the point of allocating five days to business and two days for ourselves. Some researchers identify the ancient Sabbath as the origin of the current so-called weekend, with the day before Sunday needed at home to make preparations for a proper observance of the Sabbath the next day. Others believe it was an attempt by labor unions to accommodate Jewish workers who took Saturday instead of Sunday as their Sabbath. And, according to a few of my friends, Saturday is required to get everything together to watch sports on Sunday.
Regardless of how we got here, the precedent is set. Most full-time jobs require five days of work during the week, with two days off for the weekend. And although this makes work a significant part of life, most people don’t like to work. They don’t like their job. They don’t like their boss. They don’t like their colleagues. As a result, most people don’t want to be there.
Numerous studies support it. According to The Gallup Organization, three out of four people are at some level of disengagement. One out of four is productive and wants to be at work, and the rest dominate the workplace with their waiting. They’re waiting for the weekend. They’re waiting for vacation. They’re waiting for Friday. They’re waiting for a boss to make them happy. They’re waiting for a promotion. And every single week, they’re living for the weekend.
It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out the numbers are against those who live for the weekend. With seven days in a week, disengaged employees spend five days staring at a clock in hopes the two days at the end of the week can bring them enough joy to sustain them until the next weekend.
I have spent many years of my life addressing the challenge of employee disengagement. In my first book, Engaged Leadership: Building a Culture to Overcome Employee Disengagement, I addressed the leader’s responsibility to create a culture where employees want to work. Managers certainly have a motive to create this type of culture, and with the proper focus and support they can do it. But the reality is it’s not their only focus, and some will be better at it than others. In order for a culture of engagement to truly develop, employees have a responsibility to show up with a certain level of personal engagement. Whether we like it or not, employee engagement is a two-way road.
Some people question why they should do anything to contribute to a culture of engagement in their professional life. Simply put, our work consumes too much of our time not to find ways to become more engaged. We can sit around and wait for the perfect job to come along. We can sit around and wait for the perfect boss to come along. Or we can do the best with what we have.
Some employers are taking risks and trying to alter the “five days of business, two days of pleasure” model. They’ve lengthened four days of the workweek and provided for three-day weekends. Some are using technology to allow more flexibility regarding when work is performed. But for many others in the workplace today, the “five days of business, and two days of pleasure” model isn’t changing any time soon.
So, what can we do about that? We can change how we view our professional life and personal life coming together. Instead of breaking our seven days into work and home, we can examine how the following five aspects must all weave together: career, relationships, health, finances, and spirituality.
Each of these is important because they affect each other. Consider this. I can’t focus on my career and be engaged at work if I don’t focus on my physical and emotional health. It is not possible to be unhealthy at home while being healthy at work. When I don’t feel good, I usually don’t want to go to work and if I do, I’m probably not very productive. I can’t focus on my career and be engaged at work if I’m doing a poor job of managing my finances and I’m unsure whether I can pay my bills. I can’t focus on my career and be engaged at work if I’m struggling with a significant relationship at home or with a boss or colleague at the office. It is not possible to separate the emotions required to deal with these relationship challenges from our personal and professional life. Ultimately, it all ties together.
We benefit personally when we find a way to weave together these five aspects of our life, and our bosses benefit as well. You see, the leader can do everything outlined in Engaged Leadership and yet not create an engaged culture if the employees aren’t doing their part. For instance, the leader can ensure an employee understands clearly the role he or she plays in an organization, but it won’t matter if the employee isn’t “there” because of a poor relationship with his or her spouse. The leader can create incredible reward systems to recognize superior performance, but it won’t matter if employees aren’t “there” because they are trying to figure out how to pay the bills because they have done a lousy job managing personal finances. Ultimately, it all ties together.
By understanding what makes us effective at each of the five preceding aspects, we can understand our responsibility to become personally engaged in life, which will eventually lead to being engaged at work. I could argue that we owe it to an employer to be more engaged at work, but in reality, we owe it to ourselves. Employee disengagement is a lose-lose situation: Our employers lose because they don’t get the best we have to offer, and we lose because we waste the time we spend at work. We owe it to ourselves not to be like those people who drag themselves through the week in search of the weekend. We owe it to ourselves to start living for the weekday.
© 2016 Clint Swindall — Clint is the president & CEO of Verbalocity, Inc., a personal development company with a focus on leadership enhancement. For information about how he can enhance employee engagement in your organization, please visit www.verbalocity.com, or contact him directly firstname.lastname@example.org.