How to stay motivated when working from home

How to stay motivated when working from home

The once-in-a-lifetime pandemic we are currently experiencing has completely changed the way we live and work. Working from home (WFH) has been a positive lifestyle change for many, with studies revealing several benefits of the arrangement. However, after nearly two years of rapidly changing work dynamics, the novelty has worn off for some.

Staying motivated whilst working in isolation remains one of the most difficult obstacles that the WFH lifestyle has created. The separation from the normal buzz of your workplace, replaced with navigating partners, children, housemates, pets, or in many cases, hardly any human interaction which doesn’t involve a wifi connection, creates a less than ideal situation for many workers.

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Despite workplaces’ best efforts to implement formalised WFH policies, staying motivated in a home environment is one of the most challenging elements of the new normal. The motivation we need to get tasks done, move about, or hit deadlines, can arise from two different sources. These are known as intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.

  • Intrinsic (inside) motivation is when we engage in a task or activity because the activity itself is rewarding.
  • Extrinsic (outside) motivation moves us to complete a task because there is a separate reward waiting upon its completion. Or, on the other hand, extrinsic motivation pushes us to get something done to avoid punishment.

Extrinsic motivation, in a work context, can influence people to complete tasks that personally, they are not overly interested in. However, when we work from home, the reward that we would receive for completing tasks in the office doesn’t always transfer to the new dynamic. For example, the praise your employer and colleagues might give you in person, for completing something done ahead of schedule, might not be received whilst working remotely.


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WFH offers fewer opportunities for extrinsic motivation and increases opportunities for distraction. These two factors, among many others, make for the perfect storm, leading to a decrease in motivation for many workers during this time.

In light of this, we have compiled three tips that will help you to stay motivated while WFH.

1. Divide your time

By setting or allocating periods of time to work on tasks, you can make larger projects more manageable, and less overwhelming to tackle.
For example, by setting a timer for 50 minutes, you can separate your day into 50-minute intervals of work, and reward yourself with 10 minutes of rest or break time at the end of each hour. This allows you to create your own mini ‘reward’ at the end of each task, which motivates you to spend the ‘working’ time you have allocated yourself, being more productive.

Practising meditation is a great way to reset and refocus, you can find over 400 free meditations on the Smiling Mind app to help you get started.

2. Create incentives

Speaking of rewards, create your own version of incentives to motivate you to get the job done. For example, you might leave your favourite podcast episode to listen to or get outside for some exercise on your lunch break. Incentives can even be as simple as planning to take a moment to enjoy your favourite afternoon tea snack after you tick a task off your to-do list.

After all, it’s always easier to get something done when you know there is a fun treat waiting for you on the other side of it! 

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3. Choose your workspace wisely

For most of us, WFH was never a part of the plan, and so a dedicated office room at home isn’t always possible. However, it is important to dedicate a space in your home to work, and work only! We recommend trying to separate this space from the bedroom or living room if possible, to avoid blending ‘rest’ spaces with ‘work’ spaces. This allows you to get in the right frame of mind for the workday, and to create some kind of work and life separation during this time. 

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Looking for more ways to support your team whilst WFH? Check out our leading workplace program, to help your team take a proactive approach to support their mental health.

Learn more about our workplace program

References:

Oakman, J., Kinsman, N., Stuckey, R. et al. A rapid review of mental and physical health effects of working at home: how do we optimise health?. BMC Public Health 20, 1825 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-020-09875-z

Written by Smiling Mind

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