When faced with a pile of paperwork and a heavy workload, it can be difficult to feel enthusiastic about work sometimes. According to Gallup, only 34% of are “engaged” in the workplace - which although is the highest level since the organisation began surveying US workers in 2000 - is still a low percentage.
For many, disengagement with work manifests itself as a lack of motivation. Employees may feel they are no longer being challenged by what they do, or feel bored by their day-to-day schedule and tasks. Some might feel disconnected from their roles and find themselves increasingly distracted by their phones, social media or office gossip - getting the bare minimum done, while wishing for change.
A lack of motivation and engagement with work is bad news for employers. It is well-known that organisation and teams with higher employee engagement perform better.
“Compared with business units in the bottom quartile, those in the top quartile of engagement realise substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher profitability,” researchers at Gallup found.
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“Motivation is crucial for the success of a company. It hugely impacts productivity, which determines the success of a company,” says Call Lee, head of Workthere. “In addition, motivation fosters a much happier working environment for employees.”
It makes sense that happier, healthier workers are far more beneficial to a business. So what can employers do to ensure their staff stay motivated?
Find interesting work
There are plenty of motivating factors at work, including job security and pay, but research suggests finding interesting work is one of the most important. Not every aspect of a job is going to be gripping - but being passionate about work overall is key to boosting employee motivation.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to quit your job, however. Asking your boss if you can work on new projects or with different people can keep a job feeling fresh, even if you’ve worked there for five years.
Improve your office space
Nothing drains an employee of motivation than working in a drab, airless office, particularly when we spend an average of 42 hours a week at work. Improving our surroundings is key to boosting motivation in a workplace. In 2014, Exeter University researchers published a study which found offices devoid of pictures or plants are “toxic” to workers, who were more satisfied and performed better with simple changes - like introducing a bit of greenery.
Small office perks also go a long way to show employees they are appreciated and valued, such as decent coffee, fresh fruit, healthy snacks and good canteen meals. Taking regular breaks is important too.
Learn a new skill
If you’ve been in a job for a while and you can do it with your eyes closed, it can be difficult to feel motivated. This is because there is a part of our brains called the “seeking system” that impels us to learn new skills and take on meaningful and challenging tasks. When we act on these impulses, we are rewarded with a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is linked to pleasure, motivation and attention.
Writing in the Scientific American, behavioral therapist Andrea Kuszewski explains how taking on new challenges and learning new skills is critical for motivation because the process naturally rewards us.
“Novelty also triggers dopamine, which not only kicks motivation into high gear, but it stimulates neurogenesis—the creation of new neurons—and prepares your brain for learning. All you need to do is feed the hunger,” she explains.
Learning a new skill on a training course or taking on a challenging project may well benefit your employer too, as well as boosting your skill set and employability.
Go home on time
The majority of UK office workers finish work at 5pm, but according to the Office of National Statistics, we now work 30 minutes more every week compared to 10 years ago.
So, if you’ve hit your peak, make an effort to pack up and leave on time. You’ll have more time for yourself in the evening to do what you want to do, like go to the gym, enjoy a meal out, or relax and watch TV. You are far more likely to come back refreshed and motivated, having spent time away from your emails.