The days are getting shorter, there’s a definite nip in the air and schools have been back for weeks. Autumn is here and with it, judging by my workplace anyway, arrives the onset of chronic lethargy.
Returning to work and the usual routines (and frustrations) can feel especially hard at this time of year. Colleagues complain that they just can’t get back into the swing of things. The office feels flat and summer holidays a distant memory. Motivation is barely in existence. So what can individuals do to try and salvage their mojo?
Identify the good stuff
To kick things off, think about what you love about your job. It can feel really hard if you’re feeling particularly disgruntled, but persevere. Try noting down ideas during a typical week to identify what parts of the job you love. Don’t bother with the stuff you don’t like – it’s usually pretty easy to identify that and it’s too easy to focus on the negatives. What you’re trying to do here is get your mojo back, not bury it forever.
It can be useful to look at changes you can make in your current workplace. Consider checking out shadowing possibilities with another team to see if a change of team or new role appeals. Ask your manager about training opportunities. Are there any conferences that you can attend? Think about mentoring a student if you haven’t done so before. Investigate secondment opportunities or consider speaking to contacts from different teams or departments to find out about new projects that might be available.
If you’re seriously thinking of a change in career, it’s worth contacting the university or college where you did your social work qualification as most have a careers service that often offer free advice for their alumni.
Don’t forget the obvious
Other things to do to make things more bearable are the obvious but nonetheless often neglected things. A kettle. A nice cup for your coffee or tea. Put pictures on your desk. Make sure you have regular breaks (set your alarm to remind you) and a nice lunch. Make time to talk to colleagues. Plan time off, even if it’s just a day or, even better, a long weekend.
Some people work condensed hours, giving them a day off during the week. It’s not for everyone of course, depending on your circumstances but it’s certainly worth considering.
Effective peer support is a deal breaker for a lot of people. It’s not just about talking to the people you work with, it’s about mutual support and being able to share frustrations/experiences with others who have ‘been there, done that’. If your current peer support is nothing more than a snatched chat while waiting for the kettle to boil it could be worth considering setting up a more formal group.
The fun stuff
Outside work comes the more fun stuff. Maybe it’s the thought of the autumn school term, but in the autumn I always think about further education, though preferably nothing that will cost too much money or require a dissertation. Most education colleges no longer offer the sort of adult education classes of old, but the Costa chain of coffee shops has recently set up a more informal collection of classes in Costa stores all over the country via the pop-up college. If you have a group of colleagues interested in a particular subject, they’re happy to set up classes just for you. Other places to try are local libraries and independent cafés or the hotcourses website. If you’re pushed for time, look at online courses such as futurelearn.
Ask yourself what makes you tick, what makes you laugh and what you’re passionate about and go from there. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Libraries are free. Local sports centres are cheap, especially if you can wangle a discount for NHS or local authority staff. Try it, it’s worth a shot.
If your motivation is still suffering, just think: it’ll be Christmas soon and you’ll have the delight of a team ‘do’ and, if you’re really lucky, Secret Santa.