Written by David Brooks and Arthur Brooks and originally published by The Atlantic.

Several years ago, Gallup asked people in 142 countries to respond to a series of statements designed to measure employee engagement—involving matters like their job satisfaction, whether they felt their work was important, and whether they had opportunities in the workplace to learn and grow. What the polling firm found was that engagement is the exception, not the rule: Worldwide, 13 percent of employees were engaged at work, while 63 percent were not engaged and 24 percent were “actively disengaged,” meaning they were unhappy and unproductive. Engagement rates were highest in the United States and Canada, and lowest in East Asia.

“About one in eight workers … are psychologically committed to their jobs and likely to be making positive contributions to their organizations,” Gallup noted. “The bulk of employees worldwide … lack motivation and are less likely to invest discretionary effort in organizational goals or outcomes.”

These realities restrain not just economic productivity and growth, but quality of life around the world; after all, in advanced economies, people spend more than a third of their day at work. David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, and Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., have both studied these dynamics. And in a session at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute andThe Atlantic, they offered advice on how to make work more meaningful.

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Photo used with permission by FULLER studio. 

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