Motivation at work: what you can do about it

By Elle Holder

6 min read

Motivation at work: what you can do about it
Illustration by Kevin Yu

Statistics show that 33% of employees are considering leaving their jobs because of sheer boredom. But here's the hidden truth: employee motivation isn't just for show - it's a fundamental cornerstone of success in the workplace.

We feel that when it’s important, the energy we need will magically appear, fueling our actions with purpose. But what if it doesn’t? 

Work has to get done, and we can’t blame our shortcomings on our lack of motivation. Today, we’ll dive deeply into motivation and provide 12 actionable tips to help you find, maintain, and leverage motivation to do your best work. 

Understanding motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind everything we do. From making lunch for yourself to training for a marathon, motivation is the spark that helps you move toward your goal. Usually, the motivation to do something is connected to caring about the result, so in that sense, it’s easy to see how a lack of motivation can lead to missed opportunities.

In the workplace, high motivation levels are directly related to engagement, productivity, and retention. Motivated employees are more connected to their work and happier in their positions, and this sentiment manifests itself in a stronger company culture. 

Higher employee motivation results in 41% less absenteeism, while lack of motivation is linked to a staggering $450 billion in losses across the global economy. So, do companies need motivated employees to succeed? You bet! Fortunately, inspiring motivation is easier than you might think. 

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12 tips to unlock motivation at work

Here are a few tips on how to get motivated, stay motivated, and inspire others to do the same. 

1. Set clear goals

Goal setting is critical to productivity. However, it’s easy to become overwhelmed when the goals seem too complicated or monumental. Failure to complete big goals may lead to disengagement and discouragement. Smaller, incremental goals are more easily achieved and provide a sense of accomplishment that fuels motivation to move forward. 

Setting SMART goals can help. SMART is an acronym that suggests goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. 

2. Get inspired by others in your field

Look to others in your field for inspiration. When you connect with inspiring people, you become inspired yourself. If you don’t have an appropriate role model in your life or company, seek out books or podcasts by interesting people. Find something or someone that sparks your imagination. Sometimes, it’s as easy as inviting someone to share the mission, as you’ll gain a new perspective and see your tasks through new eyes. 

3. Use positive reinforcement

Motivation is generally driven by one of two things: punishment or reward. However, if there is no reward, there is usually no impetus to complete the task. Positive reinforcement in the form of praise or recognition is highly motivating, whereas the lack of these things will almost always lead to disengagement. When employers, managers, and team members acknowledge the good work of others, it promotes excellence and drives motivation. 

4. Visualize success

Visualization is proven to boost confidence, creativity, and motivation. The practice involves creating clear mental images of the result, the path to get there, and how you’ll feel when it’s done. Set aside some uninterrupted time to focus and relax. Common techniques to support visualization include journaling, meditation, or creating a mood board to organize positive thoughts around the task. 

5. Prioritize tasks

Nothing kills motivation faster than stress. Prioritization helps to alleviate stress as you will get the most critical tasks out of the way, gain a sense of accomplishment, and be better able to focus. There are many strategies you can apply for effective prioritization. Make lists, assign a level of importance to each task, and do the things you least want to do first. 

6. Break down large tasks

Breaking big projects into smaller chunks alleviates much more than just stress—it also helps you remove the ambiguity around tasks, allows you to get feedback, and keeps you motivated through to completion. Strategies in this category include making lists, setting deadlines, and doing some reverse planning, in which you start with the goal and work backward through the steps needed to get there.

7. Take regular breaks

All work and no play… you know the rest! Taking periodic breaks helps your brain disconnect and may help you gain a fresh perspective. Step away from your desk for a few minutes each hour if you can. Take a walk outdoors, have a stretch, do some exercises, or listen to music. Even short breaks can do wonders for your mental health, helping you stay motivated and happy at work. 

8. Connect with your values

The more aligned your work is to your personal values, the more connected you will feel to your job and the company. Understanding why your work matters is a big part of this. The importance might lie in a broader company mission or simply being a part of a successful team effort. Establish a personal mission statement, such as relating your current tasks and role to long-term career goals. Knowing your purpose helps to keep you moving forward.

9. Embrace continuous learning

A learning mindset helps you stay ahead of the curve and imbues your work with a fresh perspective. Knowledge is essential for personal and professional growth and may open your eyes to new career prospects or infuse your work with fresh energy. Prioritize learning opportunities when available, network and collaborate to benefit from others’ experiences, and leverage online resources like courses, webinars, and podcasts to enrich your learning journey. 

10. Stay organized

A chaotic, disorganized workplace is a surefire motivation killer. Establishing order, routine, and processes that support organization removes unnecessary distractions and helps people stay motivated. Clutter, whether physical or digital, can be mentally draining. Ergonomic office spaces, well-organized supplies, hidden cabling, and tidy common areas help keep workers focused on the right things.

11. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness has many benefits for workplace motivation, including stress reduction, improved work relationships, better conflict resolution, adaptability, and job satisfaction—all of which contribute to better engagement, productivity, and motivation. Taking periodic breaks, avoiding multitasking, being present, and finding meaning in your work are all strategies that promote mindfulness at work. 

12. Foster a positive work environment

A strong, collaborative company culture and good interpersonal relationships with colleagues and management help to foster a positive work environment. Badly managed or poorly designed work environments can do the opposite, infringing on people’s comfort and harming motivation and productivity. When working remotely, this can be accomplished through communication, collaboration, and positive feedback. 

Final thoughts

Are you feeling motivated? We hope so! Our favorites are SMART goal setting, prioritizing learning, and finding meaning and inspiration beyond your desk. Ultimately, staying motivated at work requires effort from both employees and leaders. When we work together toward a common goal, everyone reaps the rewards. 


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Elle Holder

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