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How to Stay Engaged (and Happy) At Work

Written by: The Wiley Network / Tara Trubela
Published on: Apr 22, 2021

This article is brought to you by The Wiley Network where you can explore resources for Researchers, Educators and Professionals, including support for the Covid-19 crisis.

How to Stay Engaged (and Happy) At Work
Image credit: Monika Wisniewska/Shutterstock

The “Sunday night blues” are a real thing. In fact, according to a poll by, 76% of Americans say they get a really bad case of the Sunday blues - which is a combination of guilt, anxiety, and sadness - because they’re either regretting what they didn’t accomplish over the weekend or seriously dreading the start of the work week. Regardless of the reasons for feeling down, these negative emotions account for a lot of unhappy campers come Monday morning.

The psychological effects of the “Sunday night blues” can translate into lackluster behavior and a less-than-thrilled attitude in the workplace. Studies show that while 34% of Americans are engaged in their work, 50% are not engaged and 16% are actively disengaged. Poor employee engagement results in lower productivity, more absenteeism, and a higher turnover rate. And turnover can cause quite a blow to the economy: the Bureau of National Affairs estimates that U.S. businesses lose $11 billion each year due to the consequences of employee turnover.

Aside from the return on investment, what are the benefits of keeping employees happy in their current jobs? For one thing, engaged employees are 2.5 times as likely to stay at work late to get something done and five times as likely to recommend their place of employment to their family and friends. According to a Gallup survey, dedicated workers with a positive outlook are 59% less likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months.

Turning Sunday Blues Into Happy Mondays

After listening to Catherine A. Sanderson, author and psychology professor at Amherst College, give her popular “Science of Happiness” talk, my perspective on the topic of what makes us happy changed. Studies show that it’s not buckets of money, a promotion, or even a new car that brings people true joy. While these things can create an uptick on the bliss-meter, they provide a fleeting sense of satisfaction. Rather, fundamental behaviors like volunteering, having meaningful relationships, and capitalizing on individual strengths create lasting happiness. Sanderson’s findings on the value of purpose, meaning, and human connection in everyday life can be applied to the well-being of our professional lives as well.

Participate in Kind Collaboration

Teamwork in the work place goes a long way. Collaboration is not only the key to getting things done, but it also helps create those feel-good relationships we all thrive on. When we work well together, we learn to trust each other, respect one another, and take more creative risks.

American employees only spend 45% of their work day on primary job duties—with 40% of their time spent in meetings, on administrative tasks, or what is bucketed as “interruptions.” To make the most of the typical work day, productive meetings are short (think 30 minutes or less), focused, and have a clear agenda. This type of collaborative effort gives coworkers the chance to share ideas, solve problems, and even iron out their differences—as well as offer up their unique talents and skills in the presence of people they value, which Sanderson tells us is one of the secrets to happiness.

Leave an Indelible Mark

Bestselling author of The Truth About Employee Engagement, Patrick Lencioni says employees need to know that their job matters to someone else in order to feel fulfilled. When employees see that their jobs influence another person or group of people, they are more likely to pay closer attention to details, stay within their organization, and even help attract new talent. Chester Elton, author of What Motivates Me, administered a test called the Motivators Assessment to 25,000 people to find out what factors motivate them on the job. Elton agrees that in order for workers—especially millennials—to be engaged, they need to feel as if they are making a difference in the world.

One way to achieve job satisfaction is to follow a project through to the very end so that you can see how well the final product is received by others. Also, take time to collect and share customer testimonials to understand how your products or services improve real lives. Go out there and talk to your customers or clients, attend conferences, and take professional development workshops that let you reflect on your purpose at work and reaffirm that your day-to-day role does indeed make an impact.

Work Towards a Greater Good

No one wants to work in a bubble. We all want to feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves. UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center offers its own “The Science of Happiness” free online course, education programs, fellowships, and more—all with the mission to “explore the roots of happy and compassionate individuals, strong social bonds, and altruistic behavior—the science of a meaningful life.”

Want to find true meaning at work? Consider becoming or finding a good mentor. Mentorships provide opportunities to either nurture an up-and-comer’s career or get advice and insight from a veteran employee. An overwhelming 98% of millennials believe that working with a mentor or coach is critical to their career development. The mentorship relationship has been shown to improve attitudes, performance, and job satisfaction. According to the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), 77% of companies report that mentoring programs are successful in increasing retention.

Staying positive and motivated on the job is often a choice that takes some effort. After a bad day at the office (and we all have them), take a deep breath and think about how you can add life to your career. Perhaps you can regroup with colleagues who inspire you, spearhead a project that is a bit out of your comfort zone, or have a candid talk with your team. At the end of the day, engaged employees are happy employees, and vice versa.

How do you stay engaged at work? Please share your own experiences in the comments section below.