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Best Ways to Increase Motivation in the Workplace

Truly understanding what motivates you and your team can make all the difference in creating a culture of inspired doing and exceptional results. As teams begin to re-enter the office, here are the best ways to ensure everyone feels valued and encouraged to do their best.

Fostering motivation in the workplace has never been a small task, but today it may prove harder than ever for many offices. Since so many people are opting to work from home instead of coming back to the office, a cavernous, half-empty space could cause some degree of spiritual deflation amongst the group. If you’re a manager, this may be proving especially troublesome, as you only have so much influence over how your employees feel at any given moment. But with a bit of ingenuity and attentiveness, a thoughtful, patient leader can breathe new life into their workplace. Here are a few simple steps for increasing motivation amongst your employees, and sustaining that newfound enthusiasm over time:

Positive Reinforcement

By focusing on what employees are doing right, you’ll foster an environment in which they feel valued and essential. Try to recognize good work when you encounter it, so that your employees, who now know exactly what you’re looking for, can strive for something that they know is within reach. Draw attention to small accomplishments: extra effort, a thoughtful note, or a small but useful contribution all merit some type of recognition. Though it may not be immediately apparent, this kind of affirmation injects a new sense of purpose into the workplace, and gives employees a reason to look forward to the workday. When employees feel seen and appreciated by the person or people they work for, it becomes easier for them to remember why they show up in the first place.

Demonstrate the Work’s Utility

Let’s be honest—what could possibly be more dreadful than “busy work?” When giving assignments, make sure that your employees know they’re not just working for work’s sake by clearly explaining both the job to be done and the significance of that job. If an employee knows that their work serves a very clear purpose—or, even better, that it benefits the people around them—they’ll have a deeper sense of urgency as they push forward with the project at hand. Emphasizing the purpose of the work, in fact, is often even more important than explaining the work itself, since the purpose is, after all, synonymous with the goal. Show your employees that their work has a valuable practical application, and they, in turn, will have a deeper appreciation for the task at hand.

Be Flexible

With the arrival of Covid-19 and the emergence of home offices across the country, the days of the rigidly regimented 9-to-5 lifestyle are largely over. Instead, modern day offices are fostering a more flexible, goal-oriented workplace culture in order to maximize employees’ output. As a manager, it behooves you to demonstrate that what matters is not the impression of productivity, but rather, productivity itself—if your employees are putting out good results in a reasonable time frame, who are you to say which hours they should spend in the office? As backwards as it may sound, this kind of flexibility fosters a greater sense of accountability amongst your employees, since they are now responsible for scheduling their work lives in order to meet the deadlines you’ve set.

Set Clear, Attainable Goals

So much of the time, managers think they are pushing their employees to great new heights by challenging them to finish massive tasks in record-breaking times. In fact, such lofty expectations have the opposite effect—employees are deflated the first time they realize they won’t come close to fulfilling the goal, and then they stop taking their manager’s expectations seriously on future assignments. Setting reasonable expectations means that the end-goal is always within reach, thereby motivating your employees to work more efficiently. What’s more, it gives you the chance to celebrate their achievements on a more regular basis and provide more of the affirmation they need to have a clear sense of momentum.

Foster Healthy Habits

Let’s face facts—an office full of people who are singularly focused on work and fail to take care of themselves will never achieve optimal efficiency. That’s why it’s vital that you remind your employees to eat healthily and get at least eight hours of sleep per night. If you can afford to, have fruits and vegetables readily available for employees to snack on, or have yoga mats available for your more exercise-minded workers. By taking small steps to keep your employees healthy, you’re demonstrating that their employer is invested in their emotional and physical well-being. This, in turn, gives them more reason to take care of themselves, thereby minimizing burnout and paying steep dividends for you.

Encourage Breaks

As much as you may encourage employees to take care of themselves outside of the workplace, it’s still possible for them to exert too much energy while at the office. Rather than micro-managing and making sure that they’re always focused on the task at hand, you should actively urge workers to step outside, go for walks and take a step back from their assignments so that they can get back to it with a fresh set of eyes. Like so many of the above steps, this is just another way of giving employees a sense of agency and self-determination while in the process, communicating that only they can hold themselves truly accountable. Give them the time and space they need to take care of themselves, and they’ll return the favor with clear results.

Make Room for Fun

It should go without saying that a little bit of levity can go a long way. Employees who know how to have fun together are typically much closer than those who don’t. If you want your employees to collaborate well—and trust us, you do—this sense of closeness is the first and most important step towards achieving a sense of community in the office. By having group outings or playing games in the office, your employees will have a chance to get to know each other outside the context of work, thereby deepening their relationships and mutual appreciation. This kind of camaraderie is a vital component of any well-run office.

Cultivate an Ideal Physical Environment

Studies demonstrate that the environments we work in play an outsize role in how efficiently we complete our assigned tasks. Here are a few simple steps you can take to make your office as conducive as possible to a healthy work culture: maximize the amount of natural light by keeping blinds open at all times; furnish your office with air filters and plants to keep the air fresh; and provide your employees with ergonomic office furniture to minimize the physical discomfort that comes from using conventional desks and chairs for hours at a time. Your employees will be grateful that you went out of your way to keep them spiritually and physically healthy, and you will see returns in their sustained performance.

So many offices falter by focusing too intently on the work at hand while holding their employees to virtually impossible expectations. Employees, intimidated by their manager’s lofty goals, begin to buckle under the pressure and lose a sense of purpose. But instead of following this trajectory, you can create a more holistic workplace by taking the steps above to give your employees the space and time they need to take care of themselves. In the process, you’ll effectively hand the keys back to them so that they can settle into the driver’s seat. It’s this kind of propulsion that anyone, whether working in the office or not, needs to be truly motivated—the desire to prove oneself, and the space to do so, is sometimes the only push we need to get the job done.

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