Happy business people clapping in the conference room

“Where on Earth do you find the motivation to show up at work with so much energy and get things done?” turned out to be the most popular question I got over the past year.

A personal year like no other. After months of visits to hospitals, one day I woke up with the sounds of war outrage in Ukraine. Following days of raid alerts and shelters, I ended up in Poland with my whole life put into one backpack, just grateful for the fact of staying alive. Since then, one of the most important things which helped me to stay sane appeared to be my work. So, I decided to summarise my motivations during this time to answer how work can become the lighthouse even in the darkest hours.

A job gives you a feeling of control

A simple routine brings a sense of accomplishment. Even if your life is entirely out of control, you know much more about your work. You know what to do, when to do it, and in which sequence. You can easily measure the progress, which is under your control. This routine helps you to be present in time and focus on which valuable tasks you can accomplish today at work rather than allowing your brain to stay anxious about your future 24/7.

In my case, one day I found myself heading to a country, where I did not know the language, had no idea about local rules, and barely knew anyone. I neither have planned nor properly prepared for the move. I still have no certainty on when and whether I can get back home, and what tomorrow holds for me. But I know for sure that every morning I can greet my colleagues on daily meetings. I know my planned activities for the week and what is scheduled in the calendar for upcoming days. This gives me certainty, and certainty gives a piece of mind.

Work can help your mental health, not only harm it

No one would argue that health is the most important of all. When we deal with serious health issues, it is even harder. All of a sudden instead of job discussions, you have doctor appointments and exhaustive procedures. If that lasts long, you are getting so tired that you need another treatment after the main treatment. That is when your work can help by being a distraction.

This month during my educational program at Stanford GSB I met a peer, who told me about his idol. A person fighting a serious disease in the hospital, every day writes work emails, stays deeply engaged, and does not disappear from work radars. Some may argue that in such conditions people should not work for the sake of their health. Which might be true. However, specifically for him, this experience allows him to distract from painful procedures and thoughts about how many days he has left, while being locked in the hospital room. He uses work as an enabler to get through unpleasant experiences, replacing them with a normal work routine that keeps him interested and energised.

It is not about what, it is about why

Many of us believe that only certain kinds of jobs permit people to find meaning and bring social value. If we take this view, good work is just going to be the province of the few – doctors, teachers, CEOs, etc. But you can (and I would say should) shape your job with a central purpose of organisation in mind. And then craft your jobs with short-term impacts you collectively create. If you are in tech, regardless of whether you work as an executive assistant, HR professional, or marketing officer, you create digital solutions, which shape our tomorrow – the way the next generation will educate, travel, get their groceries and spend their leisure time. This reminder might drastically change your perception of daily tasks.

For example, I do not show up every day at work thinking that I will prepare another tremendous proposal today and that is an amazing achievement as such. Instead, I show up with a mindset that I am here to enable our clients to start a new journey. A journey of a disruptive product that will change the industry or users’ experience. That sounds way more inspiring!

You are always part of a bigger picture

Recently, with the war outrage in Ukraine, I opened more secret senses of my job. The job is means to support the Ukrainian economy and create new workplaces. Workplaces for those, who either need a new job or will go through upskilling and will get to IT in Ukraine in the long run. This is an absolutely different perception of my daily work. When even a drop to the ocean counts. And I would highly recommend looking beyond your organisation to find that big purpose, if you completely lost one on your own.

In summary, your job might be as important and meaningful as you choose it to be. And when everything in life goes wrong, you can at least hold on to your job. “I have not found a motivation, I crafted it” turned out to be the most honest answer on my end to the initial question.

About the author

Nataliia PelykhNataliia Pelykh is a Solutioning Director, Product at Ciklum, a global digital solutions company for Fortune 500 and fast-growing businesses. She has a proven track record of leading global product development for some of the world’s largest organisations in roles of product owner and business analyst. Nataliia led cross-functional teams, worked as internal competency lead, and now is primarily focused on setting up new product engineering engagements. Prior to IT, Nataliia worked in business consulting at EY.

Nataliia’s contribution to her organisation and wider IT community helped her secure Finalist positions in Ukrainian and UK IT Awards in two consecutive years. She has also been nominated multiple times for the Women In Tech Excellence Awards.

Additionally, Nataliia is a Board Member of a non-profit organisation with a key focus on professional education and networking events. Recently, this society launched ‘Fearless Girls’ program aimed at helping women affected by war in Ukraine, which Nataliia is actively supporting.