It’s not news that employers would like their employees to be more engaged. Yet while engagement sounds like estimable goal, the question we might ask ourselves is: How does it really affect us?
The answer, according to Arnold T. Bakker, a psychologist at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands, is easy: being engaged acts like a reward and makes us want to do it more.
As Bakker explains, work engagement depends on two kinds of resources: job resources and personal resources. Job resources, such as social support, feedback, and opportunities for autonomy, variety, and growth satisfy basic human needs, but also benefit the workplace, because with ample job resources work is performed more quickly and with better results. Personal resources such as self-esteem and optimism, affect how employees approach their jobs and tend to be associated with more enthusiasm and joy, better health, increased focus and effort.
Employees with abundant personal resources tend to look for more opportunities for themselves through “job-crafting,” or seeking ways to make their responsibilities “fit” their talents and interests and to increase challenge.
And both job resources and personal resources, says Bakker, create an upward spiral. Job resources that allow the employee to work better makes work more rewarding for them, which in turn increases their engagement and effectiveness. Personal resources often accrue admiration from other workers, boosting their positive attitudes, productivity, and engagement, which acts as a personal reward for the employee who brings the personal resources (Bakker, 2016).
Moreover, engagement is greatest when the demands of the job are highest, which leads to greater work performance. And this principle applies even to what we think of as low-level jobs, such as those at a fast-food restaurant (Bakker, 2016).
Bakker cautions that work engagement differs from person to person, and also ebbs and flows from day to day, even hour to hour, and it is not reasonable to expect peak engagement every second of the workday. However, when we can use down time to help renew engagement and productivity they can continue to support a virtuous cycle where one productivity act leads to another.