50:50 – Motivation in the home office is a matter for both employees and managers

How to motivate yourself and your employees in the home office

To be able to motivate themselves, employees need a high degree of self-organization. In addition, an environment that is as free of disruptions as possible is ideally helpful. Individual strengths also have a lot to do with how well we succeed in self-motivation in the home office. It’s no secret that motivation is the key to achieving goals and to mental health (and not only) in the home office.

1/3 of our lifetime is work

In a professional context, we spend about 1/3 of our entire life time. Only sleep usually “costs” more time. It is therefore not surprising that social interactions are of great importance in the workplace. A motivating work environment is therefore directly related to our work performance.

Motivation is a decisive success factor in the home office

It used to be normal to leave the house and go to work. Now, for many, the workplace is physically confined – at least temporarily – to their own 4 walls. In the pandemic, one of the biggest issues was that this meant a lack of social contacts – time and again, we hear about “isolation” or “loneliness” in the home office.

The topic of motivation becomes exciting in this context. After all, it was often said in management literature that the manager is responsible for motivating employees. Just as often, however, this statement was doubted. Presumably, as is so often the case, the truth lies in the middle. The fact is that very few employees and managers can simply “flip a switch” and work 1:1 in the home office as they do at the company location.

To motivate oneself, one needs a high degree of self-organization, ideally an environment that is as free of disruptions as possible. In addition, tasks that are meaningful and value-creating. Personal strengths also have a lot to do with how well we succeed in self-motivation in the home office. And motivation is the key to achieving goals and to mental health – not only in the home office.

Recognizing productivity and motivation brakes in the home office

The technical equipment and digital maturity of the company, but also of the individual employee, have a high influence on productivity and motivation. There are still companies that do not provide employees in the home office with reasonable equipment. And not every home office has the necessary space. Some people still sit at the kitchen table with their laptops. Performing work and participating in team meetings then becomes tedious.  The effects on motivation are underestimated here. If a poor Internet connection is added to this, the employee may need 20 minutes for processes that take 5 minutes at the company site. This is unnecessarily frustrating.

Use software sensibly and establish binding rules of the game

Another topic is the software used and how it is used. What tools are available to build up sensible information structures? How well are employees trained to use the programs? These are pragmatic questions that need to be clarified. What is often forgotten are agreements and rules within the team. Other processes require new agreements. Who informs how (medium, timing) and about what? Where can everyone take a look at the current achievement of objectives? Where does the team member get support, what needs to be coordinated? Uncertainties and ambiguities lead to misunderstandings. And unfortunately, these are usually recognized far too late in virtual collaboration.

Related: 88+ Tools for Business, Home Office and Remote Work and 8 Open Source Tools for Home Office and Remote Work

How to influence your own motivation?

It’s all a matter of attitude: we behave according to which personal strengths are dominant. Our strengths determine what we need to approach tasks with motivation and drive in the “isolation” of the home office. And how to succeed in keeping motivation high throughout the day. If a person needs social interaction, then this need is usually automatically served at the location. At the latest at the coffee machine. In the home office, it’s different. It doesn’t help to hope in frustration that the colleague on the other end of the Internet connection will notice that I’m in need of conversation.

Personal responsibility is the magic word: That means everyone is responsible for proactively contacting their colleague or boss. To get what you need in order to work well. On the other hand, it’s different for a person who likes to work on topics undisturbed and draws motivation from his or her own progress. In this case, it is helpful to communicate clearly in the team when you are not available for this reason and when you are allowed to “disturb”. The confrontation with oneself, one’s needs, one’s own strengths, but also those of the other team members has a great influence on one’s own motivation.

Exercise personal responsibility

One of the most common mistakes is to take situations and emotions for granted. Retreating into a shell and hoping that someone else on the team will help you. Seeking proactive and solution-oriented communication. This is an important factor for successful collaboration and motivation in the home office.

Optimize daily structure for more motivation in the home office

Anyone who leaves the house to go to the office automatically follows a routine that provides structure and thus support. You dress consciously and mentally prepare yourself for the challenges of the day. This is gladly omitted when the commute is limited to the change from the bedroom to the bathroom to the workplace. The transition from private to professional is fluid. The boundaries become blurred.

Some people find it much more difficult to switch off and leave work behind once they have finished working in the home office. That’s why it’s advantageous to plan equally clear working hours and to consciously end the day. Recovery phases are important for health and for recharging motivation. As the number of virtual meetings has increased significantly, it is often more difficult to work through the accumulated tasks. It is easy for stress levels to rise towards the end of the working day because there is still so much to do.

This can be prevented by creating a good weekly and daily schedule that is oriented to the goals. In addition, it is incredibly good for motivation if tasks can be checked off. It is also helpful for your own motivation to plan the next day at the end of the day and to appreciate the successes of the previous working day.

Reduce distractions and define focus work time

Our everyday life is characterized by distractions. Here comes an email, there an SMS or a phone call. At the same time, there’s a chat in MS Teams or a new entry on the project pinboard. And if we take a breath from the media, the cat jumps onto our laps. Or the neighbors think you have time for a little small talk because you’re at home and not in the office anyway. These are just a few examples that distract our attention from completing important tasks. Here it helps to create an environment that is as free of disturbances as possible. And some courage to take a break: Turn off notifications when concentration is on the line. The brain needs a warm-up period when we want to immerse ourselves in tasks. Any disturbance ruins the flow.

Small gifts keep the friendship

Small rewards for completed tasks maintain motivation. It is important to make the small successes visible to yourself. The customer complaint finally managed successfully? The customer is satisfied and has left a good rating for the problem solution? Well, if that’s not a reason to treat yourself, what is? The important thing is that the brain stores the positive experience and we can approach the next case with much more motivation. The type of reward is secondary. Because reward, like motivation, is very individual.

4 points to create a motivating home office environment

1. Create structures and enable effective collaboration.

Provide tools for sharing. Collaboration tools for synchronous and asynchronous collaboration are suitable here. All documents and information must be accessible and findable for everyone at any time in a central location. The same applies to shared or well-maintained calendars for visualizing availability and absences. Elements from agile working can also be helpful. One example is the daily stand-up. At the agreed time, all team members meet virtually in the meeting room. 15 minutes for mood, daily goals, special challenges and important information, need for support. Short, crisp, concise.

2. Visualize goals and goal achievement

What is our role in the company? Why do we exist? What do we contribute? These questions are elementary for motivation in a team. Therefore, it is important to make the vision/strategic orientation and the concrete goals of one’s own area transparent for everyone. Furthermore, visualize the collective progress on the way to achieving the goals. 3.

3. Enable/encourage personal encounters.

Create space for the people in the team. Informal coffee meet-ups or team lunches have proven successful: Everyone who can come to the meeting at the agreed time comes with a cup of tea/coffee or a snack. Important rule: No content discussions, no agenda. The only thing that matters is the social exchange, the shared laughter. The space for the personal.

4. Communication, communication, communication

The manager should make sure to maintain regular contact with all team members and get a sense of where people stand. Communication is the linchpin when everyone is in the home office. Both the frequency and quality of contact points matter. Being virtually present means actively seeking contact, asking questions and listening carefully.

Together you are not alone

Motivation in the home office is both: an individual task and a joint project. Colleagues, boss and our own behavior determine whether we can work well in the home office or are better off in the office.

I also recommend the following article: Employees in the Home Office – Accompanying and Coaching is a Management Task!

Wenn Menschen gemeinsam auf einem Trampolin springen, können sie sich gegenseitig beschleunigen oder ausbremsen. Das ist in Teams und Organisationen genauso. Als Trainerin, Coach, Team- und Kulturentwicklerin begleitet Sandra Dundler die Menschen digital und analog dabei, die Herausforderungen der Transformation zu meistern. Sie war selbst lange Jahre Mitarbeiterin in einem Konzern auf unterschiedlichen Führungsebenen.

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