You loved your job in the beginning, but now things have become routine. You find yourself simply clocking in, checking the time, and then clocking out for the day. Is your passion gone? Have you turned into a shadow of your former (happier) work self? If so, you’re not alone. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report, roughly 70% of workers are not engaged. Among that group, 52% are not engaged and 18% are actively disengaged.
If you feel guilty about “checking out” at work and going through the motions from time to time, don’t. Even career and leadership coaches admit to turning into a mindless work zombie at times. Leadership coach Paul Sohn described on his blog how work had made him feel like a caged animal at times. “Frankly speaking, I too have suffered from countless days feeling robbed from a sense of purpose, meaning, and joy from work. As a Christian, I have wrestled with the idea of viewing work as my God-given calling and living a life of excellence. Work felt at times like a cage where my potential was stifled, strength underutilized,” said Sohn.
Here are some ways you can keep yourself from morphing into a work zombie.
Look for the root of the problem
Before you can remedy your situation, you’ll need to take time to figure out what’s causing you to turn into a work zombie. Ragini Parmar, vice president of talent operations at Credit Karma, advises having a heart-to-heart with yourself and asking yourself what’s keeping you from fully engaging. “Identify what’s keeping you from being engaged. Does your company appreciate the importance of culture? Are people not communicating? What kind of bottlenecks exist and why have they surfaced? Do you get the right amount of recognition? Be relentless in your search so you can take action on the things you can improve yourself or with team members, but also so you’re able to identify recurring themes and trends to communicate with your manager,” Parmar told The Cheat Sheet.
Take care of yourself
Executive coach Abigail Wurf told The Cheat Sheet one of the keys to staying engaged at work is to take good care of yourself. If you neglect self-care, you’ll end up feeling bitter and unfulfilled. “I’d first recommend that employees do something for themselves before they go to work in the morning. This puts their job in perspective — that it’s not their whole life. They might read for pleasure for [half an] hour before they go into work or meditate or take a walk outside. That way, they approach the job having given themselves some sense of control over their day, having given themselves something they enjoy. As a result, they will approach work with a better attitude and demand less of work,” said Wurf.
Find meaning outside of work
Joe Weinlick, senior vice president at Beyond, The Career Network, said most employees want to feel like they are making a difference at work and they want to contribute in a meaningful way. However, employees are not finding opportunities to do this. “Numerous studies have shown that a majority of workers are not engaged at work. A major reason is that companies are not doing a good job of helping employees to understand how they can contribute. People want to make a difference. But if they feel they go to work just to work, it’s hard to get excited,” said Weinlick. A solution to this problem is to look for ways to contribute something meaningful outside of your job. Work doesn’t have to be your life. There are plenty of ways to give back, such as through volunteering at a shelter or doing a good deed for a stranger.
Have a meeting with your boss
If you’re troubled by your lack of engagement and want to make your current job work, Weinlick said it may be helpful to speak up and arrange a meeting with your supervisor. “It’s amazing how so many employees feel disengaged, while their managers are wondering why their team doesn’t take more initiative. There is massive miscommunication, with managers expecting employees to take initiative, and employees expecting their manager to provide them with meaningful direction. How about trying to meet your manager part way? Identify some ways that you could make a difference that you would find exciting, and then pitch your manager on letting you do them. If they say yes, you found motivation. If they say ‘no,’ then maybe it’s time to look for a new job,” said Weinlick.