Consider this situation: Your organization has just laid off 20% of its workforce, and you and your team have to pick up the extra work. To make matters worse, the organization has been losing money throughout the economic downturn, and the leadership team expects increased productivity rates from the staff. To top it off, a pay freeze has been put in place for the next 18 months.
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For many workers, this workplace situation is a reality. Increased workloads, high-stress working environments, and stagnant wages are creating a perfect storm for low morale and motivation in the office. This combination creates a vicious cycle: As motivation and morale fall, so does your ability to produce quality work and stay productive, which can make you more vulnerable to a layoff.
Salary increase projections for this year are holding steady at 2011 levels, which were 2.0%. However, this is lower than the rate of inflation which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), currently stands at 2.9%. This means that even if you do get a raise, inflation will consume all of it and then some. Productivity is also suffering as a result of the down economy, with the BLS reporting the productivity rates grew less than 1% in the fourth quarter of 2011.
The economic climate has made it hard for employers and employees to make ends meet and remain optimistic about the future. But there are steps you cant take to stay motivated and productive in the office.
Finding Deeper Meaning in Your Work
No matter what you do, your job exists for a reason, and experts says finding the human element in what you do is key to staying motivated when raises are nonexistent.
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"When cash is short, people need to focus on the meaning of their roles," says James Manktelow, productivity expert and CEO of leadership coaching site MindTools.com. "If they can see how their work helps others, they can set stimulating, challenging, useful goals for themselves, and they can take real satisfaction when they achieve these goals."
When organizations go through a round of layoffs to trim expenses, the remaining employees are often left with an increased workload without additional compensation. This can make anyone feel stretched to the breaking point. Knowing how to prioritize your work is essential for focusing on important, and not just urgent, work.
"Professionals need to focus on high value, high importance tasks," states Manktelow. "They need to delegate, renegotiate, delay, or eliminate low value activities. By prioritizing intelligently, people can actually increase the importance, quality, and value of their work, at the same time that they bring their workload back under control."
Take Time for Yourself
With the threat of layoffs looming and a to-do list spanning several pages, it's tempting to come in early, skip lunch, and stay late in order to show your worth and get everything accomplished. But spending this much time working without a break can quickly lead to exhaustion and career burnout.
Experts say it is essential you take time for yourself during the day to give your mind a break and recharge. No one can focus effectively for eight hours straight. Every hour, take five minutes away from your desk. Go for a short walk, drink water, and stretch. Even a little amount of exercise will get your blood flowing, help relieve stress, and help you focus better. And make sure you take the time for a healthy brown bag lunch.
Use Your Skills
Everyone has natural talents and it's important to recognize how to use them to your advantage. "Take a moment to write down the three things you are naturally good at," says Julie Lynch, principal at Uncommon Consulting and an expert in motivation and productivity.
Her advice is to do whatever you can to use your strengths on a regular basis. "These are things that colleagues, friends, and family seek you out for when they need help. These are some of your inherent talents. Now consider how you feel when you're engaged in doing those things. It feels good right? Brain research shows that when you use your natural talents, you get a neuropsychological boost. Actively applying these personal strengths to your work is like having your own personal motivation engine."
Heather Levin is a contributor for Money Crashers Personal Finance. She has a strong interest in careers, small business, and green living.