Work-Life Balance – Topic 3: Motivation at Work

The third module of the Aker Care Work-Life Balance Campaign is focusing on motivation at work.

When workers experience some degree of control and ownership over their job tasks, they often have a good relationship with the management and are able to separate work from home life. Employees with a good work-life balance are often more motivated and less stressed as well as more productive. More and more employers have acknowledged that if they want motivated employees, external rewards are not sufficient. Motivation is the energy that makes us act and behave in certain ways.

Researchers divide motivation in two parts: Intrinsic (inner) and extrinsic (external). An example of intrinsic motivated behavior is often seen with children; they are mindful and present while playing. They are motivated by the nature of the game, not necessarily by any rewards. In the workplace, employees can experience being engaged in work tasks they perceive as meaningful and they feel motivated without this having to do with extrinsic reward. Intrinsic motivated co-workers are more productive than the extrinsic motivated co-workers. In addition, they report higher degree of well-being.

Extrinsic motivation drives extrinsic actions and behaviors. An example of extrinsic motivated behavior can be a person who does a job or activity in order to get a reward like salary.

However, according to the Self-determination theory there are three fundamental psychosocial needs that must be fulfilled to motivate us to act. These needs are autonomy, mastery and belonging, which can facilitate inner motivation among co-workers:

  1. Autonomy: the need for independence and opportunity to choose how to solve tasks
  2. Mastery: the need for using own knowledge and skills to solve tasks and challenges efficiently.
  3. Belonging:. our need to feel connected to other people.

In conclusion both employer and employees will benefit from promoting inner motivation as a driver for positive actions and behaviors the work-place. This will also contribute to a good work-life balance.


Ryan, R. M. and E. L. Deci (2000). “Self-Determination theory and the fascilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being.” American Psychologist 55: 68-78