How can your people ignite (or re-ignite) passion for the work they do? Maybe this requires committing additional energy and investing yet more time. They might find themselves left with limited resources or motivation for the things that help maintain their wellbeing. In a 2023 survey conducted by The HR Director, 53% of employees across the UK feel overwhelmed by their workload. What do we do?

Ambition is healthy. It can promote happiness and deep satisfaction. But as people progress in their career and broader life priorities, the challenging pursuit of professional goals alongside wider life commitments can impact on mental and physical health. In worst-case scenarios, it can lead to burnout. Here are a few ideas for how you can stimulate your employees in their work, help them achieve their ambitions while sustaining good mental, emotional and physical health along the way.

  1. Set Realistic Goals

Setting smaller, realistic goals can keep everyone on track and better motivated. This is true for the bigger picture and the everyday. It can be easy for people to fall into the trap of thinking big (and overexerting themselves to deliver and achieve on this), but small, consistent, and incremental wins accumulate and have just as much impact. An accountability buddy for employees to check in with on these can be helpful too, whether that’s a colleague, family member or friend. Having those important conversations as employees progress with goals keeps perspective in the longer term too.

  1. Take Regular Breaks

Seriously, take your breaks. You might think that encouraging your team to power through lunch and routinely work beyond their usual hours helps you to achieve more. The reality is that being caught in this cycle reduces productivity. Taking regular breaks throughout the day helps individuals to recharge – even if they are only micro-moments. Looking up or stepping away from work during the day will restore perspective and contribute to a more sustainable balance more likely to support your work priorities. Pay attention to longer breaks and taking leave too. Encourage all your employees to find time for rest and recuperation across the year, whether that’s a holiday, a staycation or scheduling some leave for a longer weekend when it’s needed.

  1. Allow Time for Self-Kindness

Encourage your team members to make space for self-care and dedicate time each day to doing something that they enjoy. Reading, walking, running, swimming, time with pets, listening to music, daydreaming, whatever is their thing… Looking after wellbeing is essential, regardless of the work schedule. It’s not selfish or indulgent but rather an essential part of being effective and satisfied both personally and professionally. This is easy to aspire to but harder to attain in practice. One way to stay motivated is to notice your own mood and productivity when you do make time for these wider activities, acknowledging the impact will help you stick to these positive routines. Perhaps it’s an earlier start to the day to have some time before work starts or using your evening time differently, maybe cutting down on Netflix or scrolling social media!

  1. Ask for Help

Many capable, competent, high achieving professionals are not used to asking for help. Or recognising when they need it. Or identifying who could support. Today, mental health is talked about more openly in the workplace and in wider life roles. If your team members are getting overwhelmed, try chatting with them, encourage them to speak with their managers and their friends and family. Explore ways you can help to keep things manageable for your workforce. You might wish to reach out to a mentor or coach if you prefer to seek external help. Those initial conversations can be difficult to have with employees but keep the focus on staying well to ensure commitment and authenticity is demonstrated. See this change as contributing to a more positive work culture or environment; not a sign of weakness but strength.

  1. Celebrate Your Wins

It’s important to celebrate wins in your workforce; taking the time to appreciate hard work and dedication. The wins might be related to professional goals, personal achievements, individual wellbeing ambitions or something very specific. Celebrate successes to build commitment to goals and connect with the vision or values of your organisation. Like goals, these may be small, incremental wins. Where appropriate and helpful, also think about innovative ways you might highlight your employees’ successes to others. This supports your organisational profile and can contribute to better collaboration or networking, creating opportunities that may otherwise have missed. In conveying the wins – big and small – this may also keep those accountability buddies on side and fully invested. They also want the best possible outcomes as you encourage your team to work smarter, achieve a new positivity in their wellbeing and, ultimately, discover a deeper joy in their ambitions.

Emma Willars
Emma Willars
Learning & Development at Bright Horizons UK | + posts

Emma has worked in Learning & Development for over 20 years.  She supports employers and their employees with models and solutions for better work-life integration: creating content, facilitating workshops and consulting on DEI strategies. Emma shapes the dynamic Work+Family LIVE programme for Bright Horizons, engaging with over 400 leading employers across a range of sectors.