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“I feel guilty saying this, but I really can’t be bothered to work right now.”
It’s a sentence I’ve heard multiple times, in various iterations, from friends and family members who are working from home during lockdown.
We know that compared to key workers, we have it easy. We know thousands of employees have been furloughed and are facing job insecurity when they return. We know the self-employed are stressed, and the parents are utterly frazzled.
And yet, we stare at our screens each morning, wondering if we’ll find the motivation to make it through to 5pm.
It’s totally understandable to feel a little deflated at the prospect of work right now, particularly if you’ve just had four days off over the Easter weekend, says Calli Louis, co-founder of career coaching service Working Wonder. But there are ways to boost your motivation.
“First off, remember this is a very unique, unusual and stressful working situation that you and everyone else has never experienced before,” she tells HuffPost UK. “Also, it’s highly likely that alongside your day job you are likely to be managing other emotional personal life and family situations, so it’s no wonder you may find it hard to stay motivated, especially when working from home.”
Louis recommends trying to take comfort in the fact that none of us are in this alone. And while you may not be a key worker, remembering that “everyone has a role to play” during this crisis may help, adds James Pacey, co-founder of Haptivate, which runs workshops to boost happiness and productivity in the workplace.
“At a time like this, work might start to feel a bit silly or pointless. However, seeking out a sense of meaning and purpose in the work you’re doing can help you to stay focussed and feel more satisfied with your contribution,” he says
He recommends grabbing a pen and paper and taking a moment to reflect and answer these questions:
How does your job help you to look after the people and things you care about in life?
What relationships at work are important to you? How do these people rely on you and what would be the impact on them if you weren’t there for them?
How does your work help your customers or clients?
How is your work helping you develop as a person?
What other impacts does your work have on others?
“It may feel challenging at first but don’t be afraid to think outside the box. You may be surprised by how long your list grows in just five minutes,” says Pacey. “Then take this list and put it somewhere visible in our workspace as a reminder when you find yourself asking ‘what’s the point?’”
Maintaining a routine by getting up, showered and dressed properly each day can also help with motivation, says Louis, as does writing a to-do list at the start of the day. Pacey adds that “stop thinking and start doing” can be a good mantra to remember if you find yourself paralysed in front of your screen.
“At the moment we’re being bombarded with an enormous amount of information that’s making us feel under threat. This can quickly overwhelm us, triggering our freeze response and paralysing decision-making,” he says.
“Just jumping in and working on even the simplest of tasks helps to activate the brain’s drive system and curb our stress response. And when you’re able to tick that small task off your list, the brain releases a burst of dopamine that feels pleasurable.”
Both Louis and Pacey believe “celebrating small wins” is key to keeping momentum up.
“It helps us to stay positive and reminds us that we are making a difference, however small it may be,” says Pacey. “It might be receiving good feedback, having a productive video meeting or even eating a healthy lunch.”
Recording these wins in a notebook or journal will help you to build on the habit, plus give you something nice to look back on during difficult moments.
You may not be able to pick or choose what you work on during the day, but you can reframe negative thoughts about your work and performance, says Louis.
“Many of us shift quickly into thinking about what we aren’t good at, and this can be exacerbated when we are working alone,” she says. “This may sound brutal but no one is good at everything and as soon as you realise this it can actually be really empowering.”
During this difficult period, try to focus your mind towards the parts of your job that you thrive in, Louis adds, then think about how you can become even better at them. “It means that you are immediately focusing on a positive growth mindset and not a negative,” she says.
While working from home, maintaining your professional network will also help to keep you on track, and thankfully, with video technology at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever before.
“Now more than ever it’s important to stay in contact and check in with colleagues and other peers,” says Louis. “You can commit to motivating and supporting each other at work and use each other as virtual sounding boards.”
For those feeling guilty about having a lack of motivation, just remember: