How Can You Maintain The Motivation To Work During A Pandemic?

How Can You Maintain The Motivation To Work During A Pandemic?

While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people around the world to new adaptations socially, financially and physically, one of the hardest adaptations has been to work from home. Safety restrictions prohibit going to work and employees have been forced to adjust to this ‘new normal’. However, this adjustment to be productive from home has been particularly difficult for most. Motivation is the process that pushes you to act and makes you willing to do something. It helps you to maintain goal- oriented behaviors and reach what you desire. Motivation can come from both your internal drive to accomplish something as well as external rewards. Intrinsic motivation refers to when people undertake tasks because it brings them pleasure and enjoyment, is significant and important to them, and doing the task is rewarding in itself. In this case, they could be motivated by learning, competence, autonomy, mastery, curiosity, creativity, etc. When people feel compelled to act because of something outside themselves or for an external reward, they are extrinsically motivated. Here, factors like money, fear of punishment or failure, praise, awards, etc. are motivating to work. Although these external reinforcers are not considered the best form of motivation, they can be very helpful and encouraging while paired with a challenging task.

There are several reasons why your motivation to work during a pandemic may plummet, the first one being the lack of external rewards. Extrinsic reinforcers like praise and recognition, promotions and training are completely cut down while working from home. While we all require some kind of external reinforcement, it has now become impossible as we are not working in a positive commercial environment. Research has also found that when people have no choice about where they work and are forced to work from home, motivation drops significantly. This eventually increases their inertia for work as they begin to wonder if any effort to work will even be fruitful. Procrastination doubles as there is no accountability to any one in person and the number of distractions has increased, from family members to pending household chores. The lack of boundaries between your home and work life also arise as there is now no designated time or space for either, which makes you feel like you are working longer hours and are constantly exhausted. In addition to this, there is always the fear and anxiety of being laid off or losing your job and dealing with an economic crisis. Even though the situation seems bleak, there are many ways to stay motivated and feel productive while working from home. Despite feeling unwilling to work, here are some ways to keep you motivated and get you out of a rut: 

Finding meaning

Most people were happy about lockdown restrictions in its earlier stages and even used their time productively to deep clean or take up a hobby. However, as time progressed, these weeks turned into months and soon made them lethargic and the idea of work itself was draining. With no clear end in sight, time is just passing and the idea that you are not using this time productively can be very distressing. Research suggests that the best way to kickstart and get back to work can be to find meaning in what this time is to you. Despite this disruption to our lives, it is important to understand what truly matters to us and working according to that belief is one of the best ways to get out of this occupational burnout.


Establishing a morning and night routine

With time morphed into a big jumble and no clear separation between your home and work life, establishing a set of steps to complete right after you wake up and before you go to bed will not only build a sense of order and routine but also make you feel productive and give you something to look forward to. Reducing screen time by not checking your phone first thing in the morning and keeping gadgets away 30 minutes before bed, starting your day with a mindfulness meditation or ending it with gratitude journaling, engaging in light physical activity once you wake up or even building a skin care routine before you sleep can be helpful things to incorporate. Developing this routine as a habit will give you sense of security and stability during such an uncertain time.

 Create a dedicated workspace

Although it is tempting to work from your bed without taking too much effort, it is important to fix a place for the sole purpose of work. Working from places meant to rest, like your bed, can actually be counterproductive as you blur the line between work and rest. Delegating spaces like your dining table or work desk to get things done will not only boost your performance but also make you look forward to taking a break at the end of a long day.

 Top 3 tasks

It is discouraging to be staring at a long to-do list of which barely anything is ticked off as completed at the end of a work day. However, this is often the case when you’re in a rut and feel underproductive. You end up trying to fit your day into a tight schedule hoping to get a ton of work done, but almost always fail, while the pressure to meet deadlines gets worse. In such a situation it is important to prioritize the 3 most important tasks you would like to accomplish in your day rather than scheduling things that can be taken up later. Scheduling these 3 tasks first thing in the morning separately from your general to-do list will push you to get them out of the way and create better results, while making you feel productive.

 Check in

In such a novel situation it is important to stay in touch with other colleagues, friends and family. You may often feel anxious and lonely, especially if you live alone or are away from home, so checking in with others can be an experience you should look forward to. Connecting with others can often lift the weight of expectations off your chest once you voice your feelings. Scheduling movie and games nights and FaceTime calls can be an important part of maintaining normalcy in your day. However, above all this, it is important to do a self-check in as well, while prioritizing your mental health. It is easy to get swayed by the constant negative news floating around the media, therefore being intentional with yourself and taking steps to promote well- being becomes imperative. Consciously thinking about any negative patterns you have developed, keeping a journal, and indulging in basic self – care like eating healthy and on time and maintaining a sleep pattern can go a long way.

Essentially it is crucial to remind yourself that not being your most productive during a pandemic is not a measure of your worth. It’s important to cut yourself some slack and focus on a hopeful future, while being okay with expecting less from yourself right now. Although this seems like it will last forever and working from home seems dreary, with a little bit of fresh air and insight you will find that you can make the most of this time too.

About the Author

Nishtha Gugnani
Postgraduate Student in Clinical Psychology.

A postgraduate student with a demonstrated history of working with mental health organisations and in clinical setups. With a thorough foundational ed

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