Author: Mike Scaletti
When you've been out of work for a bit, whether due to having taken a vacation, being furloughed, being laid off, or some other reason, it can be very difficult to get your motivation back when you return. Being away from work for a while can definitely be a good thing, with many benefits both mental and physical, but sometimes when you head back you work your drive doesn't seem to come along with you. This can be especially true if you are working remote, where you don't have coworkers and colleagues around who might spur that motivation.
I want to start by saying, that's okay. There's nothing wrong with you for struggling to get motivated in the workplace after an extended absence. Your job doesn't define you, and it shouldn't be your whole life, so it makes sense that after you've spent some time prioritizing and focusing on other things, the requirements of work don't seem that important.
That said, while there's nothing wrong with it, it's also not particularly helpful. You will likely find yourself less happy, and less successful, at work if you are struggling to find the motivation to do your job. Before you can get that motivation back, however, you need to understand why you're struggling and what to do about it.
There's Too Much
There is a LOT that goes into returning from work. If you are coming back from an extended vacation, you can have a mountain of emails to respond to, tasks to catch up on, and projects to get up to speed on. If you're starting a new job there are processes and tools to learn, people to meet, protocols to understand, and if you've been out for quite a while doing those things may be even more difficult due to being out of practice. The overwhelming nature of your to-do list can be paralyzing, keeping you from doing anything because doing everything seems impossible.
The key here is to break down that mighty to-do list into discreet, easily accomplishable tasks. Take a look at your list. Divide the largest projects or tasks into smaller discreet parts, then prioritize those based on a work to result system so that those tasks that lead to the biggest outcomes while requiring the least amount of work come first. This will get you back into the swing of accomplishing your goals and duties without overwhelming you, and the added benefit of the dopamine rush many people get from completing a task won't hurt either!
Finally, if your tasks and duties still seem insurmountable, don't be afraid to reach out to colleagues and bosses for help. Remember that most of your coworkers would rather your tasks be completed well even if they have to help you get there than for them to be done poorly or not at all.
You Have Trouble Seeing The Value
When you take extended time off, by choice or otherwise, your perspective and priorities definitely shift. This is especially true in 2021, with so much going on in the world. It can often seem that when you return nothing is as important as it was. You go through the motions of checking items off your to-do list, but you struggle to stay on task and the day seems to drag. This is perfectly normal. You've spent extended time with friends and family, you've focussed on yourself, maybe spending time with your hobbies, and so your tasks at work don't seem worth the effort.
The key here is finding your sense of worth at work. No one wants to feel like what they are doing is pointless, and the truth of the matter is that if you are employed your company has a good reason for employing you. You are valuable to them. While it's easy to get bogged down in the minutia and not see your value in the bigger picture, be sure to take a step back. Look at the impact your actions and tasks have had to the wider goals and functions of your company. Odds are that when you start to do so the value of your actions will emerge.
This may sound odd, especially if you've generally always liked your job or industry, but it is possible that you find yourself being bored with what it is you're doing. Again, this is common after an extended period of time off. The routines and patterns that used to bring fulfillment no longer seem exciting or challenging, and the truth is that many people crave challenge.
If this sounds like you than don't get discouraged. Instead, try to identify ways you can challenge yourself that will lead to growth and advancement. Perhaps there is a project or an improvement that you could make to your workplace, or perhaps there are skills you could learn that would take your career to the next level. Identify those things and then pursue them! Make sure that you discuss this with your boss though. If you are bringing additional value to your company, you deserve to be fairly compensated for it, and if you are learning new skills they might be willing to invest the cost of learning them in you.
The bottom line is that dealing with a lack of motivation when returning to the workplace after an extended absence is EXTREMELY common and absolutely understandable. Again, there's nothing wrong with you because of it. You just need to take the time to acknowledge and address it, otherwise you will be miserable at work.
If none of these solutions are working for you however and you think it's time to start looking for a new challenge entirely, The Job Shop can help! Get in touch with our recruiters and they can help find you a great new position. Good luck, and take care of yourself, because you're valuable!