Regardless of where you work, it’s likely there’ll be times in the year when things go eerily quiet… at least for some people.

One minute, you’ll be juggling multiple projects, reports and workloads. The next, you’re wondering how it’s still not even lunch time yet…

Maybe it’s approaching the end of the year, and everyone is winding down for the festive break? Or perhaps key clients or project leaders are on leave and work has ground to a halt? Whatever the reasons, if workloads wind down, it can often lead to a dip in motivation.

Sitting idly by

Whilst this isn’t uncommon when things are quiet, it can be detrimental if it becomes routine. Your line managers may find their employees’ willingness to go the extra mile disappears or the quality of their work begins to slide. Worse still, they may start to become disengaged with you as an employer.

It’s also the case that being idle for long periods of time can have a long-term impact on the way our  brains function. Prolonged boredom can lead to higher levels of mental stress and anxiety – not exactly key ingredients for inspiring motivation!

Of course, as soon as things start to pick up again, a business will need everyone to be on top of their game, ready to take on new challenges and be at their best. But, if your staff have been idle for a while, they might find it tough to get back into their groove.

Maintaining motivation: where HR can help

There are simple things you can do to help support that all-important employee motivation when workloads are light. Not only will they help your staff stay ‘match fit’ for when work starts to pick up again, but they’ll also maintain your own motivations levels should you encounter one of those rarer-than-rare slow weeks.

Slow periods offer a fantastic opportunity to review performance objectives and foster meaningful conversations between employees and their team leaders. 

If your company has teams or departments that are quieter than usual, encourage your line managers to assess the goals and objectives they’ve set employees over the course of the year: 

It can be easy for people to lose sight of core objectives when they’re rushed off their feet. But, when times are quiet or there’s an expected break in workloads, it’s the perfect time to encourage a review and analysis of overarching long-term objectives, and how they’re progressing.

If you and your HR team are having a quiet time, it could be an ideal opportunity to review your own department’s performance-related processes or identify if there are any positive changes that could be made – both for the benefit of your own department and the wider business.

A lull in work is the perfect time for brushing up on the basics or learning something new. See any unexpected downtime as a chance for both you and your staff to undertake some training that could enhance both job and career prospects.

You can use shared workspaces or portals to help your employees access any online resources, courses or training your organisation may offer. You can also promote any information about training resources available to your employees via your internal comms.

In addition, urge your line managers to set goals or tasks that relate to specific training activities.  This will help focus their attention and provide a sense of achievement once any training courses are completed.

If your business doesn’t run its own training, or you don’t have the budget to stretch to formal courses, take some time to look for online courses or talks. For example, TED Talks offer a wealth of free and fantastic talks on virtually anything: from new ways of working, to diversity and inclusion.

If your business has gone from feast to famine workload-wise, it can be easy to become downcast and de-motivated. So, always make sure that the little wins are celebrated – they can be instrumental in boosting mood and employee motivation when times are tough.

It’s important to remember that the power of celebrating small wins at work shouldn’t be underestimated! There’s research that shows how capturing those every-day small wins can enhance motivation levels and positively influence an entire workforce’s performance. 

Of course, you don’t need to throw a party every time, but do urge your line managers or team leaders to recognise the smaller achievements of their staff – especially when things are quieter than usual.

When things become quiet, it can be all too easy to fall into the trap of being sat idle all day. If workloads are light and your staff are spending long periods of time with little to occupy them, encourage them to take regular breaks to stretch their legs, clear their heads and get some fresh air. 

Doing something as simple as going for a fifteen-minute walk every day can do wonders for both physical and mental health. Studies have shown that regularly going for a walk can also help with creativity and problem-solving – perfect not only for staying motivated when things wind down, but also staying sharp for when workloads pick up again.