Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

End the back to work blues: Here’s how to revive the spark for your job

The holiday is over and it is time to go back to work and already you dread walking into the office. What can you do to like your job again?

If you are dreading to be back at work, there are ways to revive the spark in your job by revisiting what you like about it and looking at your career mosaic.

Quiet quitting is not the answer and can just harm your career prospects in the end.

You used to like going to work or, in the hybrid world, doing the work and being inspired to solve problems. You used to thrive on that kind of drive, but now, even after a December break, you find it difficult to get excited about the new year with a newfound focus.

Or you probably thought you just needed a break towards the end of last year, but now that you are back at work, you might find yourself scrolling through social media, TikTok, or Pinterest, counting down the minutes until you can close your laptop.

You could also be secretly scrolling through job portals in the hope to search for inspiration for the rut you find yourself in, says Anja van Beek, Agile Talent Strategist, leadership and HR expert and executive coach.

Also Read: Great resignations to 4-day work weeks – How workplace culture changed in 2022

However, she points out, it is not as cut and dry as you might hope, especially given the current economic scenario where you should “simply be too thankful to have a job”. And to top it, the expectation to be ‘innovative’ adds another layer to this complex situation.

According to PwC’s Workforce Hopes and Fears survey among more than 52 000 employees across 44 countries, nearly one in every five employees worldwide say they are likely to switch jobs in the next 12 months, indicating that the so-called “great resignation” is not going away.

Van Beek says enough has been written about how, especially in a nation with such a high unemployment rate, the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side and that you should instead water the garden you now have.

She suggests that you revitalise your current career while you still have the chance to find inspiration and a fresh joy for what you do by considering what sparks joy in your work, what your career mosaic looks like, finding a mentor and exploring the power of self-leadership.

ALSO READ: Mental health in the workplace: Is it empowering or rescuing?

What sparks joy in your role?

You can significantly improve your performance by finding significance and meaning in your work. Purposefulness is the crucial trait to developing your own agility, Van Beek says. “You will be able to better understand how to leverage your innate talents and interests to help and support the larger team when you concentrate on them.”

This will immediately affect how you feel when you realise you are contributing in a meaningful way which directly affects how you feel like you belong. “As professionals, we are tempted to fix something, meaning we focus on our weaknesses, instead of building our innate strengths.”

You can discover your innate strengths by making a list of activities that you do during a normal week and then recording which activities make you feel excited and lost in time. Things that you do effortlessly, should be an indication that these are your natural strengths, she says.

Van Beek also encourages employees to share their talents and strengths with the world now that they have discovered them.

“Think about how you can help others. Sometimes all it takes to ignite that spark is a change of scenery. Another possibility is that you get more energised when you help others, such as assisting a distinct cross-functional team with a major project.”

This might also enhance your reputation as a trustworthy and valuable resource and inspire some fresh enthusiasm for your problem-solving skills.

ALSO READ: Quiet quitting – Here’s what the law says, and how it could affect your employment

What does your career mosaic look like?

Van Beek says traditional career planning is no longer effective. “A career mosaic helps to make jobs much more flexible, with an emphasis on personal growth and adding value to both the organisation and the individual. Instead of waiting for a manager or an HR programme, you should take charge of your own development and initiate conversations about your future and be honest about your goals.”

Get a mentor

Many people can tell you about the value of having a mentor and Van Beek says the opportunity to discuss your ideas with an expert and gain insight from their experiences in life and work is priceless. “There is a lot of value in using the lessons shared to influence your career choices through gaining insight and appreciation.”

She says she learned from her mentor the benefits of building a network and how to embrace the currency of generosity by being open to sharing knowledge and helpful without expecting anything in return.

“I had more than one mentor. One had a specific HR, functional perspective and another a broader business strategy and personal perspective. My HR mentor guided me on how to handle sensitive matters, some tricky industrial relationship issues and how to handle them with a human-centric approach and not only a tick-box exercise where you let someone go.”

ALSO READ: Why empathy in the workplace is more significant than ever

The power of self-leadership

As yourself how you are channelling your energy, Van Beek suggests. “What is your perspective of the world? Daily practice of intentionally choosing how you see the world will influence your thinking, feelings and actions. This is crucial if you wish to re-energise your career.”

She says our brains are like Velcro by noticing and sometimes, obsessing about the negative first. You can counter this by being intentional about finding the benefit in your role and the value and impact you make for the clients and team members.

“Another step in self-leadership is to assess whether you are biased. A bias is merely an automatic response we use to navigate the world to respond fast and without thinking. What mental shortcuts do you use that influence how you see your current role and may need to be adjusted?”

For example, if you are in a brainstorming session and you tend to favour or detest a recommendation from one of the team members, ask yourself if this suggestion was offered by someone else, would you also like or dislike the concept as much as you do.

ALSO READ: Women ditching their bosses, boosting their earnings as independent consultants

Also remember self-care

When you revitalise your position and profession, consider the role of self-care, Van Beek says. “Consider whether you have sufficient habits in place to be resilient and perform at a high level. Self-care is essential and strong evidence supports the advantages of nourishing your soul through journaling, silencing the mind and mindfulness.”

She says you must also think about your level of commitment.

“Try 3 x 5 minutes of mindful breathing, or a morning routine which includes some exercising. Decide what works for you. You must devote time to developing regular rhythms and habits that will help you. These rhythms and routines can help you cope better with the problems you face in your job and as a result, you will find joy in your professional journey.”

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