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Unless There’s a Ring on My Finger, We’re Not Engaged

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Once upon a time engaged meant going from single to partnered. Or it meant a variation of being busy – for better worse.

These days engagement is such a buzzword in business-speak that it oversaturates our workplace communications. And this engagement isn’t a romantic proposal; it’s a request for our undivided attention. Is asking for engagement beginning to be a turn-off, instead of a turn-on?

Last month I started back to work after being gone for 11 weeks of maternity leave. Prior to taking leave I considered myself pretty tied to the job. I worked hard, I took work home with me, and I thought about tasks while making dinner or packing lunches. So when I contemplated my leave I assumed that I’d be checking email at least a few times a day just to keep up with current activities.

But, as it turns out – I didn’t.

I was out of the office for 11 weeks and I probably checked in less than a dozen times. I had taken an engagement vacation.

Back in the office, I felt refreshed (albeit tired from having a newborn!) but the work was interesting again. Now not everyone has circumstances that will get them out of the office for several months, but here are some tips to escape the engagement-ask for a few hours, days, or weeks.

The Mini

Turn it Off: Demands for our attention are increasing with the growth of mobile technology, and will soon be exceeding our capacity. Exercise your power over this information overload and sign off a few times a day. Don’t check Facebook, don’t check email, and don’t browse the web. If tech tools are too tempting, get up and leave your workspace to complete a task or meet with your team. Conserving your energy will help combat exhaustion and leave you with some reserve.

Turn it Up: Take a break, and listen to your favorite song. On repeat. Music affects our moods and a favorite tune combined with a break can work wonders.

The Midi

Tune it: If your schedule allows, create focus weeks to organize your time. Stress and engagement overload occur when demands outpace resources. Focus weeks can help you turn off other areas and commit to one theme at a time. Example weeks are: Strategy, Communication, and Training.

Teach it: If there is a subject you are required to engage with but you just can’t quite find the enthusiasm, teach it to someone else. This type of delegating can help another employee build their skill set and just might get you out of numerous tasks and activities as the sole subject matter expert.

The Maxi

Take it: If you can afford the time – take an actual vacation (duh). And don’t leave one of those out of office replies that says you are gone but will be checking email. That defeats the purpose! Over the past 10 years on the job I’ve witnessed many exhausted co-workers with ‘excess’ vacation time that they have to deal with at the end of the year. A physical vacation from work will restore the equilibrium so you can return with energy and enthusiasm.

According to a 2013 report by Gallup, only 30 percent of employees in America feel engaged at work. These tips can help you take charge of your experience and give yourself an opportunity to reset if you are feeling exhausted or cynical. Taking an engagement break doesn’t mean you stop caring it means that you are green – you are conserving energy for when you really need it.

Terra Milles is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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