How to make good work habits stick in 2020

Jan 03, 2020

Like our personal New Year resolutions, work-related goals will slip unless they become embedded in our daily routine, writes Teresa Campbell.

At the start of a new year, it is natural to think about what you want to achieve over the coming 12 months, both personally and professionally. We set goals for ourselves and our teams, often investing much time in the process. However, even with the best of intentions, we often slip back into familiar routines, missing out on opportunities to make the most of the year ahead.

Getting into the habit

When setting out to achieve new goals, it can be useful to focus on developing new habits that can help us succeed.

In 2009, Phillippa Lally and her colleagues at London’s UCL defined habits as behaviours that are performed automatically because they have been performed frequently in the past. Their research found that it can take much longer than many people think to form a habit, and perseverance is the key to success.

According to Lally and her colleagues, to form a habit, one should be very clear with themselves about what action they will adopt and in what situation, and then carry out that action consistently. Lally says that, over time, it will require less effort.

Likewise, in the workplace, when managers are encouraging teams to form new habits (be it good time management, better organisation or to adopt a more independent working style), they need to be clear about what they want the team to achieve, encourage the group along the way and have regular check-ins to be sure these new behaviours are happening consistently.

Do as I do

Managers also need to reflect on how their work habits impact on team members. Do you lead by example? Do you make time to get to know your team members? Do you give credit where credit is due? Do you take regular breaks, manage your stress and prioritise your health and wellbeing? Do you communicate your expectations clearly and set realistic goals and deadlines? These are essential habits, which all persons should develop to become a productive team member – but your team will struggle to embed them into their lifestyle if they don’t see you doing the same.

Consistency is key

I suspect that if you were to ask each of your team members and managers about the good habits they would like to nurture in 2020, you would end up with a long list of aspirations covering everything from better time management to cutting back on social media to giving higher priority to health, wellbeing and community involvement. Whatever their goals for the coming year, remind them that persistence is vital. While they may slip for a day here or there, they should try to be consistent and prioritise getting back on track. That way, there’s a good chance their new habit will continue to benefit them throughout the coming year and beyond.

Teresa Campbell FCA is the People and Culture Director at PKF-FPM Accountants Limited.