Motivating Your Team in a Post Lockdown World

As we return to the office after lockdown, are you nervous about reconnecting with your team? Are you feeling exhausted, disengaged and worried that your team will feel the same?

According to a recent whitepaper by Allan Ryan, Executive Director at Hargraves Institute, and Tess Julian:

“The global pandemic has transformed our expectations of work and where, how and when we do things… It is now critical to rethink the design of the workplace to encourage connection, creativity and celebration.”

Will your team be able to connect and collaborate successfully in these uncertain times? How will you motivate your team when they are worried about returning to the office, or demoralised from weeks of lockdown?

Self Determination Theory (SDT) may be one answer. SDT deals with how people are motivated to act, whether by outside forces or their own internal drives and needs.

SDT assumes that all of us develop our sense of self through growing, mastering challenges and integrating new experiences. The pandemic has certainly exposed us to challenges and new experiences. But we need support in order to help us grow and develop from these experiences, and the lockdown experience has not been positive for many of us. Will your work environment support your employees’ tendencies towards active engagement and growth, or frustrate it?

It has been demonstrated that if our basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness are satisfied, we will be more motivated and engaged, will persist in the face of challenges, perform better and feel less stressed.[1]

Autonomy means our need to act in accordance with our own free will and in a way which feels authentic to us. When this need is frustrated, we can feel pressured and conflicted.  

Competence means the experience of effectiveness and mastery. We experience this when we perform tasks compatible with our skills. When frustrated, one experiences a sense of ineffectiveness or even failure and helplessness.

Relatedness is satisfied by connecting to and feeling significant to others. Its absence can cause a sense of alienation and exclusion.

So how can you create a workplace that supports and nourishes these needs in your team members, to motivate them in the post-COVID workplace? Here are some suggestions:

Support autonomy by:

  • Offering options for working methods and locations and encouraging choice
  • Promoting work values that are internal to individuals, such as job satisfaction, meaningful work and helping others, as they are stronger motivators

Support competence by:

  • Matching skills and capacities to the task
  • Helping team members to acquire skills and knowledge that will increase their competence
  • Recalling past occasions when they have performed well

Support relatedness by:

  • Providing opportunities to connect with others at work and have good conversations
  • Promoting respect and civility as workplace values
  • Celebrating wins as a group

To get your return to the office off to a good start, you could also engage staff in a team activity which will provide an enjoyable opportunity for them to collaborate, connect and grow as a team. WEIR offers engaging team workshops including:

  • Collaborizza® – the collaboration workshop in a box, from the Hargraves Institute
  • Team Strengths workshop – discover and make use of the strengths in yourself and your team.

Christa Ludlow is a Principal Consultant with Weir Consulting (National)  and is a lawyer,  qualified coach and mediator.  She provides workplace conflict resolution, investigationcoaching and training services to clients in the public and private sectors.

[1]Deci, E. L., Olafsen, A. H., and Ryan, R. M. (2017). Self-determination theory in work organizations: state of the science. Annual Review of Organisational Psychology and Organisational Behaviour, 4, 19–43; Cantarero, K., van Tilburg, W. A. P and Smoktunowicz, E. (2020) Affirming basic psychological needs promotes mental well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak. Social Psychological and Personality Science, ,1-8