4 Ways Managers Can Restore Team Members’ Motivation

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, 3 min read

We all have days when we feel uninspired, unproductive, and unmotivated. We’re human after all. It could be brought on by the lack of energy, a row with a friend, or the haze from an exciting night out. Days like this take their toll on both the quantity and quality of our work.

Sometimes there are no external factors. Sometimes we just don’t feel motivated. When we realise this, we have to dig down deep to find the motivation, to say nothing of those often embattled managers trying to help their teams summon the same motivation.


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Which leads us to ask, “What does it take to get us and our teams to the level where we’re producing our most brilliant work?”

Recently, Workfront surveyed 1,000 knowledge workers in the UK about what motivates them to overcome a rough start to a day or stay in the zone. Some of the answers were what we expected to find, but there were definitely a few that surprised us.

General Motivation

One of the most positive findings of the survey is that only 6 percent of people responded as “Not Very” or “Not at All” motivated in general. This is very positive and shows that low motivation isn’t a widespread or chronic workplace condition.

Lack of motivation seems to be only a temporary hurdle for the overwhelming majority of us. In fact, 99 percent of those surveyed actually consider themselves to be self-motivated the majority of the time.

Positive and Negative Influences

So we’ve got self-motivation covered, but what takes us to the next level? What influences us to put in a little extra to get our best results? It might be surprising to some that the top result wasn’t money. No, the number-one motivator for UK employees was... praise from the boss.

It makes sense then that criticism from the boss was seen as employees’ number-one demotivator. This appears to show a manager’s words have more of an impact than the managers themselves might think.

It would appear from this survey that the “tough love” approach to management, where faults are pointed out before (or instead of) strengths, might need to be reimagined.

Judith Martin, the author known as “Miss Manners,” once said: 

“When virtues are pointed out first, flaws seem less insurmountable.”

Perhaps as managers and team members, we need to consider the carrot versus the stick approach when it comes to work motivation and efficiency.

Research like this survey shows that the stick approach can be incredibly demotivating for more than one-third of people. Managers may want to ensure that they don’t throw out impulsive or off-handed criticism without context. 

This isn’t to say that performance-based conversations shouldn’t happen. But more training on how to deliver constructive criticism paired with praise or comments on knowledge worker strengths could be in order.

Music for the Working Soul

The survey also explores how people use other external factors to produce quality work—listening to music, for instance.

When asked if music helps them feel motivated at work, nearly half of those surveyed said, “Yes, sometimes,” and 36 percent answered, “Yes, always.” Obviously, the vast majority of us need our headphones on and our tunes turned up to get that extra boost of motivation.

Only 11 percent of people surveyed said they don’t ever listen to music to be more productive.

Anecdotally, it would seem that listening to music with lyrics distracts. But the survey suggests otherwise, with R&B;, Rock, and Alternative rounding out the top three productivity-inducing genres. We are not less efficient listening to songs that contain lyrics.

And, not surprisingly, classical music still made the top five. Either way, most of us have found that our unmotivated “lonely days are over and life is like a song.” At work, anyway.

Work Perks

How can employers better play their role in keeping knowledge workers happy, fulfilled, and motivated? While bonuses are still important to knowledge workers, the top survey answer is easier to facilitate. 

Allow people more flexibility in their work days, whether that be flexi-hours or working from home, and, according to numerous studies, it also improves productivity—win/win.

Based on these responses, it’s apparent that a healthy work-life balance and employee/employer trust outweigh financial rewards, with flexible working being one of the most motivational perks of all.

The powerful effect of flexible working on motivation should also make managers reconsider how they can adjust their technology and policies to better support flexible working arrangements with their team members.

For example, cloud-based work management and collaboration tools can make it possible for team members to work anywhere, anytime, without losing the ability to access important information and communicate with coworkers.

Other findings from the survey include preferred office environment, productive non-work locations, productive times of day, and other productivity factors. To see the full survey results, click here.

To learn how Workfront can give your workforce the flexibility they crave, jumpstart their motivation, and boost their productivity, click here.


You can also see the results of our survey on what motivates knowledge workers in this infographic: "How to Motivate Knowledge Workers, Based on Our Newest Survey."

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