How do you keep yourself motivated in a work environment?
Everyone can expect to experience a dip in their productivity from time to time. Losing motivation is normal. After all, humans are not machines; we are not designed to grind out work at a consistent pace for eternity.
The problems start when that one day of low motivation becomes a week and then a month; before you realize it, you’ve hit a point of burnout. Regaining our motivation at work can be a challenge. Yet, with a bit of patience and a few handy strategies, it’s more than possible to revive your engagement with and enjoyment of your work.
If you’re looking at your to-do list and feeling a sense of dread, read on to discover some tips on how you might regain your motivation at work.
Why we struggle with motivation at work
It can be easy to put periods of low motivation down to laziness. If we’re not working hard, it’s because we don’t want to… right?
The truth is a lot more complicated than that, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re struggling with how to be engaged at work. You’re far from alone. A recent study by Gallup found that as few as 15% of employees worldwide feel engaged at work.
You may be shocked at how low that number is. This is because the issue of engagement often doesn’t lie with the individual but the organization they’re part of. In fact, 70% of the variance in team engagement levels is down to the employee’s relationship with their manager alone.
However, that’s not to say we don’t bear any responsibility for our own levels of motivation and engagement. In addition to common workplace issues, our motivation can be impacted by our habits, mental health, environment, and how much we care about the work we do. Working from home is becoming an increasingly common practice, and though it offers many benefits, the disconnect from our peers can significantly impact our engagement, causing issues with loneliness, distraction, and low productivity.
The impact of motivation loss
Your level of engagement at work doesn’t only impact your day-to-day productivity, but your long-term career progression. Employee engagement is critical to business performance, with companies with engaged employees seeing a 20% increase in sales. That means managers are keeping a closer eye than ever on employee engagement and utilization rates. If you’re seen as an integral driver of the company’s success, that opens up doors for promotions and pay rises. On the flip side, low motivation could be flagged as a concern come annual review time.
Plus, if your colleagues don’t think you’re pulling your weight, resentment can begin to build in the team. No one wants to continually pick up the slack, so it’s important to be seen as a team player.
8 strategies for staying motivated at work
If you’re looking for practical advice on how to stay motivated at work, here are 8 strategies to try today:
Reframe your perspective
Purpose is a key driver of motivation. When we feel we lack purpose, we feel demotivated. One way to resolve this issue is to reframe how you view your role. Whether you chose your job because you love your industry or because it pays the bills, your work has an impact on the company's success. Whenever you feel like a small cog in a large machine, it’s important to revisit how your contribution is felt around the business. What change have you helped drive? What couldn’t have been achieved without your input? Whose work is dependent on yours being completed?
In some roles, deadlines come thick and fast, with few opportunities for workers to stick their heads above water and breathe. In other roles, deadlines are self-imposed. Accountability is a large factor in motivation, but if no one reviews your work or holds you accountable to deliver against a strict schedule, there’s nothing to stop you from slipping into bad habits.
After all, why push yourself to finish that report by EOP when you could just as easily procrastinate and submit it tomorrow morning?
Having our performance managed in a way that encourages us to work hard is critical to high performance, yet only 2 in 10 employees strongly agree they receive this level of support. Unsurprisingly, employees who are held accountable for their performance goals are 2.5 times more likely to be engaged.
Setting yourself deadlines — and making that public by sharing them with others — will help you hold yourself accountable to deliver your work on time, hopefully generating a sense of motivation.
Build good work habits
A loss of motivation often leads to the development of bad habits, including procrastination.
If you’ve identified that you have an issue with procrastination, or delaying tasks by spending your time on non-productive or even non-work-related activities, it’s time to implement some new habits.
In addition to setting deadlines, you can combat procrastination by creating a dedicated workspace to help you get in the zone from 9 to 5, buddying up with an accountability partner or by starting to use electronic to-do lists to manage your workload.
Gamify your workday
When we reach adulthood, we expect that we’ll always do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. That’s why we brush our teeth morning and night. But we didn’t always have that habit locked down. Through gentle encouragement (and maybe some bribery), the responsible adults in our lives instilled the value of looking after our dental hygiene in us.
So, bribe yourself to get more done. Everyone can benefit from injecting a bit of fun into their workday. Plus, who doesn’t like rewards? This is known as ‘gamifying’ your workday.
Many online to-do lists available these days allow you to rack up points, ascend levels or even reward yourself with treats — however that looks to you. Using a reward system to up your productivity could be a great way to motivate you to complete more tasks and improve your enthusiasm at work.
Create new professional goals
Clarifying what you’re meant to achieve at work can increase your motivation. At least, that’s what goal-setting theory believes. Popularized by Edwin A. Locke, this theory suggests that having well-defined professional goals with measurable KPIs offers the solution to low motivation.
Shockingly, research suggests that as little as 20% of US employees have discussed how to achieve their goals with their managers in the last six months. Understanding the expectations of your role and your responsibilities, including how your contribution impacts the business, is key to feeling engaged and motivated to work. A clear next step is to arrange a meeting with your manager to review your goals and create a plan that supports your professional development.
Adopt a flexible work schedule
Your issues with motivation could come down to forcing yourself to work to a schedule that doesn’t flow with your ultradian rhythm. This internal clock defines the points in the day where we are most productive and when we need to avoid trying to ‘push through.’
The 9-to-5 has been the norm for decades now, though it isn't the only way for us to structure our workdays. Many alternatives have been cropping up in recent years, including the 9DF, a four-day workweek, and working to set responsibilities rather than hours. If you have the option to work flexible hours, consider submitting a request to your manager.
Additionally, if you find your motivation is higher in the morning before dropping off towards 4pm, you may be better off shifting your day to start and end an hour earlier. This would help you keep yourself motivated in your work environment by making the most of your bursts of concentration earlier in the day.
Discuss the issue with your manager
If you lack motivation, chances are others in your team are too. Though it can be tempting to blame yourself, employers and managers are responsible for keeping their employees engaged and happy. And a lack of motivation across the board could point to an engagement issue affecting the entire organization.
Being open with your manager can be difficult — especially if you’re worried they’ll write you off as lazy for saying you’re lacking motivation — but it’s the first step to take if you’re struggling to solve the problem alone. Besides looking at strategies that can help you individually, your manager can consider bringing in an engagement consultant or implementing an employee engagement framework. These seek to give employees purpose, facilitate open conversations and drive development.
Managers can make huge improvements to their direct lines’ motivation with a few small changes. For example, research has shown that recognition improves engagement, with 84% of highly engaged employees being recognized when they go above and beyond for their jobs.
How to be more engaged at work with Forecast
As we’ve seen, understanding how our work impacts those around us and contributes to company goals can go a long way to upping our motivation. Yet these connections can be difficult to visualize and track.
To better understand the impact of your and your team’s work, use a project management tool like Forecast. Our intelligent tools map out project progress in easy-to-use dashboards to create transparency between teams and reveal dependencies across the company, increasing accountability and supporting individual motivation.