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10 tips for improving self-motivation at work and why it matters

One challenge that everyone has to deal with is staying motivated at work.

Google quotes about work motivation and one that pops up often is “find a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a single day in your life”. Pfft. The fact is that we all have days where we’d like nothing better than to roll back over and switch off the alarm & even those of us lucky enough to love where we work.

The good news is, overcoming that lethargy is a skill that can be developed like any other. So, let’s dive into why self-motivation at work is so important, and how you can embed it into workplace culture.

Why self-motivation is important for workplace success

Inspiring self-motivation at work should be one of the key aims for any progressive manager developing an engagement-focused workplace culture. After all, you can’t just micromanage your team into working hard. Only employees who are effectively self-motivated can go the extra mile and provide discretionary effort.

Aside from boosting productivity and improving customer experience, self-motivation is great for keeping turnover low and loyalty high. If employees can’t take pride in their work, have little autonomy, or little connection to company goals, their ability to stay motivated at work will suffer.

Managers need to enable self-motivation in their team

Although self-motivation is key to being an effective worker, the fact is that managers account for up to 70% of engagement variance in their employees. That means it’s your job to build effective self-motivation strategies into your workplace culture.

Of course, for this to be possible, managers need the skills necessary to succeed. Not only is it a matter of investing in the proper education and training initiatives, but it’s also a matter of promoting the right people. Research from Gallup indicates that businesses fail to promote a suitable candidate over 80% of the time.

How to help employees self-motivate effectively

For employees who’ve been stuck in a slump, figuring out how to regain motivation at work can seem like an uphill battle. But, by following these tips, you can give your team members the tools they need to be their best professional selves.

  1. Allow for autonomy: One of the biggest predictors of employee engagement is personal autonomy. A great example of autonomy in action is that the vast majority of remote legal workers during the pandemic were equally, if not more, productive than they were in the office prior to lockdown. Being able to approach work in their own way lets employees motivate themselves by putting their best foot forward.

  2. Connect their work to overarching goals: Self-motivation at work can be extremely difficult when you feel like your work doesn’t make an impact for the business at large. But, if you can show employees how their tasks and assignments feed back into company goals, it gives them a sense of stake in the company’s success by making it something they can take pride in.

  3. Take a strengths-based approach: Employees are typically at their most engaged (and, therefore, self-motivated) when they have the chance to make use of personal strengths in their work. A bartender might thrive on customer interaction, for example. Knowing the strengths of your team means you’ll be able to assign tasks to the person who can bring the most passion to the project.

  4. Support education and training: But, sometimes, things just fall outside our areas of expertise. Investing in employee education can support your strengths-based management approach by helping employees identify the skills they want to learn, increasing their versatility as an asset in the workplace.

  5. Communicate, but don’t micromanage: Micromanagement and a lack of communication are two equally problematic extremes. As a manager, you need to set expectations about any tasks you delegate to your team. But, as per our point on autonomy, employees need the breathing room to approach tasks in their own way.

Tips for improving your own self-motivation at work

But one of the best ways to effectively motivate your employees is to lead by example. So, not only can you encourage better performance from your team, but you can also reap the personal benefits of self-motivation too!

  • Set personal goals: It’s not enough just to pledge that you’ll have everything done by the end of the day. Huge mountains of work can be a huge demotivator. The best approach is to break your work down into manageable objectives that you can tick off, one at a time, until everything’s done.

  • Create a system to reward yourself: A big part of self-motivation at work is knowing when to stay disciplined, and when to be kind to yourself. When it comes to those tasks that are just boring, repetitive slogs, setting a reward for yourself can be a great extrinsic motivator. It could be your favourite snack, going for some fresh air, or whatever works for you.

  • Try to learn new things: One thing that can seriously impact workplace motivation is feeling like you’re stuck in your job. Finding ways to challenge yourself is a great way to keep things interesting. You could learn new formal skills, like mastering a new piece of software, or work on soft skills like active listening with your employees.

  • Look after your wellbeing: Self-motivation at work is great, but it’s only sustainable if you’re looking after yourself. Take steps to stay healthy, like cutting down junk food, and taking regular breaks from sitting at your desk. Supporting your wellbeing early on reduces your risk of suffering from burnout later.

  • Push past your comfort zone: We’re all going to have the aspects of our jobs that we prefer, and some things you shouldn’t be expected to change about yourself. If you’re an introvert, for example, you’ll always be more drained by social interaction than your extroverted colleagues. But, when you go outside your comfort zone, you’ll sometimes find yourself doing things you didn’t know you were capable of, which can give you a new lease on (working) life.

Did you know that frequent manager-employee feedback cycles, such as a weekly check-in have been found to boost self-motivation? Want to see how?