The motivation struggle is real – it’s time to shake up your work day

164 Catherine Lambert

If anything could beat back to work blues at this time of year it was the thought of seeing workmates again, sharing holiday highs and lows before discussing the next batch of holiday plans.

This January, not only do many of us not get to see our work buddies in the flesh but our holiday wish list is feeling, well, feeble and we may not even get to see our colleagues if working from home.

We underestimate how much conversation and routine can spark productivity. Credit:iStock

Connect Psych Services co-founder Dr Natalie Flatt is advising her employer clients that a lot of workers are still suffering burnout.

“As well as the remnants of burnout from the end of last year, the three week break [many employees took] hasn’t been enough to recuperate this year,” Dr Flatt says.

“New COVID outbreaks have us on edge and there’s a lot of de-motivation going around which is mainly based on fear of the unknown.”

Even for those definitely returning to the office, the certainty of a routine can’t provide any comfort when it’s all askew and the work commute is a distant memory.

“We always see the finishing line at Christmas and start to wind down, knowing it’s far easier to wind down than it is to wind back up,” Dr Flatt says.

We can underestimate how much conversation can ignite energy, problem solving strategies and, ultimately, great innovation.

Dr Natalie Flatt

“It’s much harder this year though because we have the mindset of ‘what else is there to look forward to?’ and the answer is a bit of a fizzer. In our minds, it was hoped that the end of 2020 was also the end to all the worries but it wasn’t. We can see now that it’s still going to be rocky.”

Dr Flatt says there are ways around the motivation struggle such as creating a buddy system for colleagues to look out for each other and for employers to give workers something to look forward to such as new challenges and opportunities for growth.

“Human beings are social creatures and some have missed their ‘work spouses’ terribly,” she says.

“We can underestimate how much conversation can ignite energy, problem solving strategies and, ultimately, great innovation. We can also miss that immediate feedback on work or a different perspective on a situation.”

Ahead, Dr Flatt outlines eight steps for a more motivated and productive return to work.

  1. Mindset

Research supports the notion that positive self-talk leads to success and productivity, reduction in stress, higher confidence and a happier life. If you constantly say ‘I cannot’ you easily convince yourself this is true. Replace with a positive statement.

  1. Reflect

What do you need to change that will make a big difference? Where have your energies been wasted in 2020? How can you alter some behaviours?

  1. Starting

Could you start the day with a walk, swim, yoga or stretch? Doing this one activity can make you feel like you’ve already accomplished a task and will place you in a solid mindset for the day.

  1. Boundaries

A ‘start-finish’ approach – where you stick to strict working hours, rather than working longer than is necessary – can not only help ease the transition but also set up more sustainable work behaviour and resist the urge to fall back into your old work routine.

  1. Declutter

Create a folder for 2020 emails. Get rid of old phone apps, change the background picture, delete old caches. Decluttering the computer helps declutter the psyche.

  1. Connection

Schedule face-to-face time with colleagues when you first get back. If you’re a manager, acknowledge all the hard work and accomplishments of last year.

  1. Self-care

Book your next holiday to maintain your holiday self. We often get post holiday blues because we feel we have to leave the person we are on holiday. Book a break soon, maybe the end of February?

  1. Completion bias

Create a checklist, even for the small tasks. It gives our brains a good dose of dopamine whenever we cross off items.



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