On Worker Engagement

Garlic Planter

Garlic Planter

LAKE MACBRIDE— Being fully engaged at work is important. Without it, things start to slip. We get distracted, our morale slumps, and the benefits of a job are reduced to working for wages in a way close to enslavement. It’s better for us and for our employer when workers are fully engaged. This is not new. The idea of worker engagement as a business management concept developed during the early 20th Century.

In our local food system, the work requires full engagement. The size of the operation and community in which we live is such that if we don’t do something, or if we cut corners, the impact would have tangible results. If customers see an inferior vegetable selection in their weekly share, they have options. Their business could be lost the following season. If one person fails to turn off the irrigation, someone else must do it because some farm jobs have to get done. The need for worker engagement exists at every small business. It helps build the sense of being part of a team, which adds to the value of the enterprise.

If willingness to align worker interests with those of a business is important, there is a down side. Being fully engaged at work suppresses engagement in other things. In the case of seasonal or temporary work, worker engagement can use energy that should be spent finding work during the next season. As the author has experienced, lowly paid work at a number of companies can consume many hours during the week. The result can be feeling tired and worn out at the end of each day.

The better engagement is in our community. To the extent community life provides a means of economic support, we are better prepared to contribute and reinforce shared values. Worker engagement serves a purpose, yet broader engagement in the community of which we are a part is what we should be after. It is possible, but not easy.

Employment at a job has an arc of existence from getting hired until moving on to what’s next. There is always a what’s next, and the longer we are in the workforce, the better understood is the importance of full engagement. Experienced workers know we are the less if our focus has become the monetary income associated with our work.

As fall weather turns colder, and the garden activity is extended due to a late frost, the seasonal work for others comes to an end. It is a time to be thankful for community and the support it provides during the interregnum until the next paid work is found. It is a chance to re-engage in life for a while, and for that we can be thankful.

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