How to break out of the Covid-19 induced work rut – tips from a psychologist


The coronavirus pandemic has put immense psychological pressure on the general population, leaving many feeling lost and stuck in uncomfortable situations.

This is especially true for working individuals as challenges of working from home and fear of retrenchment arise, resulting in what can best be described as a "work rut".

Resist the urge for change

Dr Ilse de Beer, psychologist and motivational speaker, gives us the defining characteristics of being in a working rut, and provides us with some useful tips to help us break free from the situation. If you feel like you have nothing to look forward to, doing merely what you have to do, with no motivation, low energy levels and no enthusiasm, you’re showing the classic signs of being in a rut.

Dr de Beer attributes the rut most people are currently experiencing to the coronavirus lockdown. Although it might be a frustrating time, she warns against the urge to make drastic changes during this period: “Be cautious about making drastic changes now. Psychological research has shown that you should not make big changes during tough times, periods of heartbreak, mourning, stress or upheaval.”

She especially warns against currently making big changes to one's work situation. Instead, she recommends the following small, but useful, changes:

  • Rearrange your workspace – Moving things around in your workspace can help with creating a sense of comfort and also promote inspiration. It is known to help boost productivity.
  • Change your routine – Changing the order in which you complete tasks creates a sense of variety, the feeling that you're not just doing the same thing every day.
  • Don't procrastinate – Don't allow yourself to get behind on work by letting it pile up. Get organised by setting up lists of things you need to do. This creates the sense that you are in control and that you are competent to do what is required.
  • Avoid multitasking –  Doing many things at the same time will make you feel more overwhelmed and increase feelings of frustration. This will have a negative effect on the quality of your work.
  • Do only one task at a time – This allows you to realistically complete tasks, creating a sense of accomplishment, which in turn will motivate you to keep going.
  • Create balance – Make sure that there is balance in all aspects of your life, including your diet, sleep and physical activity levels. This will have a positive effect on your wellbeing. 
  • Enhance your skills through online education – Consider taking a course to improve your skillset, which will boost your confidence and possibly spark up your passion for your job.
  • Set goals – Setting yourself realistic goals will help to keep you motivated.
  • Keep it light and cheerful – When engaging in informal conversations with colleagues, it is best to avoid gloomy talk and focus on keeping things on a light note.
  • Avoid big changes – Dr de Beer also recommends that “if you recognise that you are in a rut, don’t be tempted to overhaul too many things at once as you might not get the results you expect. Make changes in bite-sized chunks to see what works.”

Image credit: Getty Images

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