Our latest guest post comes from Happiness At Work expert Aoife O’Brien*

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it an unprecedented shift in how we work. While we are all in this pandemic together, it has impacted different people in different ways. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to staying motivated, but the below points will provide some food for thought as to how to apply the concept of ‘needs satisfaction’ to your own day to stay motivated.

One of the key theories of motivation is called ‘self-determination theory’. This theory centres on ensuring our three universal basic psychological needs are being satisfied. Those needs are autonomy; relatedness; and competence. Below I will outline each one in turn and provide some practical tips on how you can apply it to your work. 


Autonomy means having a sense of control over what you do and how you do it. Too much and you feel a lack of direction, too little and you feel like you’re being micromanaged. What will give you a greater sense of control over what you’re doing?

  • Are you following a clear plan?
  • Is the plan too rigid or is there a degree of flexibility?
  • Do you feel a sense of control over what you do and how you do it? If not, what can you do about it?


Relatedness refers to how connected you feel with others and how the tasks you do on a day-to-day basis relate to your overall vision for your life or career. What will help you feel a greater sense of connection?

  • Reflect on what you want from your life, and how your work relates to that
  • Connect with others through virtual coffee mornings
  • What is the bigger picture? Ask yourself ‘how is what I’m doing now related to my goals?’


Competence means having the capability to do your job effectively. Too much competence and you get bored and complacent, too little and you feel like an imposter. What will ensure you feel competent to do your job?

  • Complete something you’ve been putting off for a while
  • Celebrate the wins, no matter how small
  • Ask for positive feedback, find a way to document all of your positive feedback so that you can refer back to it when you are feeling unmotivated

Other needs

There are some other needs which are not universal but that you may have. Think about whether these needs are being satisfied or thwarted by your current situation and what you could do to ensure they are being satisfied: reward, recognition, growth, self-expression, variety, stability, higher purpose, achievement, status (this is not an exhaustive list).

How well do you know yourself?

It is also worth considering getting to know yourself and how you work best – are you a morning person or a night owl? What are your strengths? What kind of blocks are you likely to encounter and how can you plan for these ahead of time? What happens if you don’t succeed in what you set out to do? Self-compassion is important, as is discipline – and finding the balance between the two.

Other practical steps:

  1. Take regularly scheduled breaks
  2. Eat nutritious, homemade food
  3. Get out of the house, walk in the fresh air
  4. Do something fun every day
  5. Make time for self-care
  6. Reflect on the important things in your life
  7. Create a morning routine
  8. Finish work on time

Once you become aware of your needs and how to satisfy them, it becomes a lot easier to remain disciplined towards reaching your goals. What will you do differently as a result of reading this? Do you have anything else that you would add?


Yogapal Community

*Aoife O’Brien is a happiness at work expert. She is passionate about ‘fit’ and specifically how creating the right environment can help individuals to reach their full potential and support organisations to thrive.  Aoife has been featured on several media platforms and other podcasts speaking about ‘fit’ as well as imposter syndrome.  Her podcast is called Happier at Work.