Some research released late last year shows that only 13% of employees, sampled from more than 140 countries, are “engaged” in their jobs, invested in or focussed on helping their organisations or work places to improve (1).
It also shows that 63% of people are “not engaged” – or simply unmotivated and unlikely to exert extra effort – whilst the remaining 24% are “actively disengaged” or truly unhappy and unproductive.
This research confirmed for me the reality I have seen in day-to-day life that for many, work is simply a way to earn money to get by, and that life is lived in anticipation of the nights out, the weekends and the yearly holiday. The thing is that it not only causes problems for the companies with decreasing productivity, increasing sick leave and absences from work, but this has a knock-on effect on the country and the world as a whole. The product and services offered by each company is affected by the quality in which the staff works, and this in turn affects the customers. If the businesses that make up a country – in fact, the world – are built on a foundation of 87% of their workers not being engaged, or worse, actively disengaged in their jobs, this has to be having a negative impact on every aspect of our society and life.
This attitude to work also has a personal effect because when you have no real purpose to what you do in life, why get up in the morning? Is it any surprise so many people struggle to sleep, or that so many people are partying and drinking much harder, perhaps to escape everyday life? When we consider the fact that most people will work a 5-day week for the majority of their lives, and therefore, on average, spend about one third or 30% of their life at work (2), could we then look at the rapidly increasing rates of suicide and consider that 87% of people not happy at work could be a contributing factor?
Could this begin as far back as childhood? The way choosing a career is approached is often from the point of view of either money, social standing, as in what is well thought of, what those around you want you to do – or, at the best of times, what you are good at or think you may enjoy. The only problem is that children and teens get so little exposure to the actual working environments they are thinking of entering that, in reality, they haven’t got a clue about what they are going into and what the job looks like on an everyday, routine basis. The education system doesn’t have the support and space to prepare children for real life, both on the purely practical level of:
- How to get a mortgage
- Pay taxes
- Open a bank account
As well as these examples, on a more personal human level:
- How to respect people
- How to work in a team without competition, comparison and jealousy
- How to have a loving relationship and long lasting marriage
- How to raise children lovingly
- How to look after and care for yourself, and this list also goes on.
Children are educated to get good grades, to perform and to make the schools look good with high-grade percentages. How are these young people prepared in any way for the real world?
Another factor is that when your career is chosen based on any of the above reasons, it doesn’t give you a purpose, a reason for wanting to do that job that is meaningful, or a sense of what you can bring to the world by doing that job.
Thanks to being a student of Universal Medicine, I have grown up with the support and guidance to connect to and know who I am and, through that knowing, be able to feel and express what strengths and qualities I bring to the world: my love of people, my ability to communicate things very effectively, my initiative, my true teamwork and leadership skills and my innate love and understanding of certain subjects.
Now they might just sound like stuff people write on a CV, but I have felt and seen how those things are a part of me and the way I naturally work. I have been given opportunities to do work experience in all the different work environments I was interested in, to get a real life taste of what I might be doing. And most importantly, the way careers were discussed in my family and with friends was not to do with salary or what would make my mum proud, but about what each line of work brought to the world – be it the amazing work of a lawyer, who represents truth and who can bring a stop moment and a rebalancing to a person who has lost their way and is doing wrong, or a nurse, who can provide the true loving care needed for someone who is sick, or even a cleaner, who lays the groundwork and foundations by cleaning so that the building runs smoothly and everyone else can do their job. No one is more or less important than another, each job bringing something very needed to the world without which the world couldn’t run.
By seeing work from this perspective, and feeling where my strengths would be best expressed, I gain a sense of purpose no matter what I am doing, and it means that I have enjoyed working from a young age and continue to do so. I may have ‘only’ worked in a coffee shop to some, but I recognise the impact I had when I worked there, just by talking to all the people I saw, and being myself, smiling and caring, touching people’s lives and serving a great cup of coffee to go with it. And now, as a receptionist, I have the opportunity to equally express my love of people and also my love of organisation through administration, being the loving first point of contact and also the support to allow the business to run itself smoothly.
Looking at my work in this way gives my life purpose and I don’t live for my days off or my holiday. It actually makes me want to go work, and commit to my job, because I know and appreciate that my presence in that job makes a difference. Can you imagine the potential we would have if we had a whole workforce with the same motivation – not to earn more money or retire early, but a wanting to work to make a positive difference in the world because of the work they do?
By Rebecca Briant, 19, Receptionist and Student of Politics, London, UK