“The best motivation always comes from within.” – Michael Johnson
We have all been there before. We get motivated towards a task and we are ready to move forward. We experience intrinsic motivation to do the best work possible.
Then we feel overwhelmed and riddled with anxiety and stress. We have too much to do and it becomes difficult to focus on the many tasks.
We want to take it one thing at a time but feel like our attention is divided among too many things. Not to mention the looming deadlines that create endless stress are always close.
If you are a motivated employee or an empathetic boss, you want to enhance intrinsic motivation. You may have to figure out a way to enhance motivation in the face of work overload and work stress.
A recent paper (2016) titled Workers’ intrinsic work motivation when job demands are high: The role of need for autonomy and perceived opportunity for blended Working by Nico W. Van Yperen, Burkhard Wortler, and Kiki M.M. De Jonge aims to answer that very question of keeping the motivation levels high.
The article was published in the Journal Computers in Human Behavior.
The authors hypothesize:
“We hypothesized that a negative link exists between perceived job demands and intrinsic work motivation when perceived opportunities for blended working are low, but only when workers’ need for autonomy is high. When workers’ need for autonomy is low, the perceived opportunity for blended working may not affect the link between job demands and intrinsic work motivation.”
The authors ask if work related pressure or excess work might be undermining intrinsic motivation.
They define the idea of blended working as a mixture of on-site and off-site work opportunities.
These opportunities are especially relevant today because of great advancement in computers. And also the advancement in the way we communicate and seamlessly transfer information is remarkable.
The authors call these technologies ICTs or information and communication technologies. They define blended working in a previous paper as:
“Smooth and seamless time-independent working (flexibility in when and how long workers engage in work-related tasks) and location-independent working (flexibility in where work gets done).”
The authors explain that blended working can enhance and increase the autonomy that workers feel in a particular job.
Why is this important?
This becomes relevant in the context of the overloaded and stress filled workplace of the modern day.
When we have too much to do in too little time, we have a problem. This is what the authors describe as Quantitative job demands. In the face of those demands, high autonomy is a resource that can help to cope.
In short, if we desire high job autonomy under high job overload and stress, we can still stay intrinsically motivated. We can do this with the flexibility and perceived opportunity to engage in blended work.
And we all know that intrinsic motivation means greater excellence and higher productivity. And most importantly, it means happier people at work.
A few definitions and elaborations by the authors through their research and previous papers:
- Blended working is enabled through ICTs or technologies.
- Blended working allows people to set their working hours, during the day, in the evening, weekends and so on.
- Blended workers get to set their locations such as at the office, at home, at commute on a train or other neutral workplaces.
- This blended work increases the freedom to choose the “when” and “where” and allows control and flexibility. Blended work increases autonomy and impacts intrinsic motivation in a positive way.
- Intrinsic motivation is the pleasure and satisfaction that is derived from performing an activity for its own sake. The reward is the pleasure that is inbuilt in performing the activity. Intrinsic motivation is more effective than extrinsic or the “the carrot and stick” reward kind of motivation.
The experimental sample consisted of 657 people of which 51% of the participants were female.
A variety of industries were represented in the sample including catering, retail trade, education, healthcare, information technology, research, and science, financial and business consultancy, and social assistance.
Participants completed online questionnaires on the subject of well-being in their work setting. They got monetarily compensated for participating.
In addition, safeguards were built in the surveys to recognize careless responses. Authors got Informed consent from the participants and the confidentiality and voluntary nature of the study was mentioned.
Questions from the study survey included:
On a Never/Always scale:
- “Do you have to work extra hard to finish a task?”
- “Do you have to deal with a backlog at work?”
On a Strongly agree/disagree scale:
- “The nature of my job is well-suited to location independent Working”
- “My private situation allows me to work at home. The nature of my job is well-suited to time independent working.”
- “The nature of my job is well-suited to e-working.”
- “Our organization ensures the availability of high-tech ICTs.”
- “For the pleasure of doing new things in my job”), to accomplish things (e.g., “For the satisfaction I feel while overcoming certain difficulties in my job”),“To experience stimulation (e.g., “Because I like the feeling of being totally immersed in my job).”
On a Not at all/To a large extent scale:
“At work, I have the need to decide on my own how to go about getting my job done.”
The authors say:
“As expected, intrinsic motivation decreased as a function of perceived job demands when perceived opportunities for blended working were low and workers’ need for autonomy was high. Increasing job demands did not undermine workers’ intrinsic motivation when both perceived opportunities for blended working and need for autonomy were high. Among workers low in need for autonomy, there was no link between job demands and intrinsic motivation. Thus, as hypothesized, perceived opportunities for blended working can buffer the potential negative effects of high job demands on intrinsic motivation, but only for workers high in need for autonomy.”
Key conclusions from the paper:
1. It is not just a high job overload and high stress that decreases intrinsic motivation but other factors can influence it.
2. When employees have a high need for autonomy along with high job demands but experience a lack of blended working opportunities and flexibility, their intrinsic motivation is undermined.
3. When given the opportunities for blended work such as flexibility in location, time and use of technology, workers with high autonomy needs did not get affected by undermined intrinsic motivation.
4. People may want to optimally seek conditions at work where they have an opportunity for blended work and employees feel a sense of control. Also, managers need to keep the psychology of the employees in mind such as high autonomy needs or low etc. before creating conditions that might be optimal for their work.
5. There have been arguments made in research studies that humans have an inherent need for autonomy. But, people with low autonomy needs benefitted the least from a flexible and blended working opportunity. For those employees, a structure and routine may work better instead of autonomy and flexibility that might overwhelm them more.
6. Past research suggests that when management supports the psychological needs of the employee, they experience positive psychological health. They also reported better work functioning as well as a feeling of social wellness.
7. Managers can increase intrinsic motivation and productivity when job demands are high by offering autonomous employees perceived opportunities for blended working and technology solutions.
In conclusion, the authors say:
“Our findings indicate that for workers high in need for autonomy, managers should provide opportunities for time- and location-independent working; this may be particularly effective when job demands are high.”