A tough business environment, an uncertain economy, increasing competitive pressure, and new work practices – including the move to teleworking – can affect employee morale.
For example, research shows that:
According to SMARP.com, the majority of companies have found it harder to retain than hire employees. They also found that:
More than a third of workers are looking actively or casually for another job.
U.S. employers spend $2.9 million a day or $1.1 billion a year to search for new employees.
So, it could be a mutually rewarding practice for businesses to consciously try to boost the morale of team members thereby creating a happier environment, which will hopefully encourage their workforce to be more eager to contribute.
A Harvard Business Review study suggests an overly strict business culture, with a focus on all work and no play, can be harmful to productivity at times and that a more positive, supportive work culture has the potential to lead to happier employees and employers, a better work-life balance, and a better work culture.
A Harvard Business Review study points out that workplace stress may siphon off more than $500 billion from the U.S. economy each year and may be responsible for more than 550 million lost workdays. The study also found that stress could be responsible for up to 80% of workplace accidents and over 80% of visits to the doctor.
Even when given perks, such as flextime and work-from-home benefits, employees say they prefer workplace well-being over material benefits.
Some characteristics of a positive work culture include:
Treating one another with respect, trust, and dignity.
Not playing the blame game and forgiving mistakes.
Providing support for one another, especially when colleagues are struggling.
12 Ways to Help Boost Team Morale
Here are some tips to help you create a work environment that can play a part in improving employee morale and attracting and retaining the top talent.
1. Cultivate Better Social Connections Fostering better social connections on the job can help improve the work environment and get greater engagement from employees. Part of this involves encouraging coworkers to get to know one another outside the boundaries of work. Work picnics, after work gatherings, lunchtime clubs, trivia events, and even coffee breaks are ways to get people to know one another personally and professionally. It’s especially important to help ease new hires into the company, perhaps inviting them to social events, like the holiday party, even before they punch the clock for the first time.
2. Encourage Real Lunch Breaks Some workplaces pride themselves on having employees tied to the mast through lunches, with many people having a bite at their desks. A break is meant to be a break, and workers might be happier and more productive if they take real lunches in the breakroom or outside of the office.
3. Limit Communications Outside Working Hours Receiving an alarming email from a boss late at night, on the weekend, or upon waking up, can be very stress-inducing for an employee. Unless a job requires around-the-clock availability, try to keep work within working hours as much as possible.
4. Bring Family Into the Work Equation Family plays an important part in most people’s lives. To recognize this, one idea is to set up “bring your family to work” days, or consider inviting them to events like holiday parties. (run on sentence and very confusing)
5. Put Your Heart in the Right Place People appreciate companies that have their hearts in the right place by supporting worthwhile causes. They will be more likely to to help organize events and do fundraising for whatever charity or cause the company or team designates as its own.
6. Embrace Equality and Inclusiveness Statistics reported by Salesforce reveal that companies that embrace equality and inclusiveness in their workforces will sometimes enjoy real financial gains. For example, gender-diverse companies are 15% more likely to outperform their less-enlightened peers. Ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to do the same. And employees who feel their voices are heard at work are almost five times as likely to feel empowered to do good work. Listen closely to what all of your employees have to say, so you can continually fine-tune and improve your inclusive culture.
7. Provide Regular Feedback Research shows that employees value regular and ongoing feedback and not just once-a-year performance reviews. One good practice is to connect the feedback and recognition to the organization’s core values and mission and convey to employees that their work has meaning and value. And another is to ask for employee feedback on a variety of issues faced by the company.
8. Embrace Transparency It has been reported that more than preceding generations, younger workers expect hard job advancements such as promotions and pay raises every year. It’s a good idea to be open and transparent about career tracks and promotions, which can help to increase employee morale and the incentive to improve their performance.
9. Appreciate and Recognize Your Employees To make workers feel appreciated, recognize personal milestones and losses. That someone won a marathon outside work could make it into the company newsletter. A signed sympathy card, delivery of flowers, and a collection for a designated charity could help a colleague who has had a family death. Honoring work anniversaries and celebrating birthdays are more ways to recognize the value of individuals.
10. Sponsor Professional Development Programs If you help your people grow, they are more likely to stay with you and help your business grow. So, helping to offset or even cover tuition expenses for someone’s school costs to upgrade their qualifications will help your company as it increases the employee’s morale. Covering the costs of attending seminars, trade shows, conferences, and webinars is also a win-win proposition.
11. Encourage Healthier Behavior More than 80% of employers invest in well-being initiatives or plan to soon, recognizing that workers are more productive when they are healthier. Since stand-alone wellness programs often only get limited employee engagement, many companies are exploring encouraging wellness through every aspect of the organization, including active workstations, healthier foods available in break rooms, better lighting, and by other means.
12. Offer Sabbaticals Some companies have adopted sabbaticals to allow employees to pursue personal passions, get a better work-life balance, and get better retention rates. Workers can volunteer, travel, spend time with the family, and do other things they might have thought they had to quit their job to do.
How to Boost the Morale of Virtual Teams
With more people working away from the office, often at home, the challenge is how to keep the virtual team connected and prevent isolated workers from sinking into low morale. People sometimes don’t realize how important personal interactions are in an office setting – chats with colleagues in hallways, banter before a meeting starts, getting together after work – until they are gone.
Virtual teams’ methods of connecting and communicating are technological and impersonal: phone calls, emails, video conferences, collaboration platforms, and chat rooms. So, here are some ways to keep your virtual team motivated and productive.
Touch Base in the Morning
A team huddle every morning in a video conference or teleconference is a great way to start the day, to instill team spirit, and focus everyone’s effort. Like a meeting in person, it’s a good idea to have some personal banter at first and to see how everyone is doing. It’s also an opportunity to share tips about working from home (dealing with distractions, separating work and personal life, and so on), especially to help those new to the arrangement.
During the course of a virtual meeting, you should try to include everyone in discussions. One of the dangers of communication by video or teleconference is that it is easy to get distracted and start multitasking (perhaps checking emails or scratching your dog). So, try to get everyone to participate in the meeting, perhaps going around the virtual table and asking each person’s opinion before a major decision is made.
Hold Virtual Coffee Breaks and Happy Hours
If two of the pleasures of office work are talking to colleagues on a coffee break or going out on a Friday night after work, why not do the virtual equivalent? One of the traps of working at home is people wind up laboring too much, forgetting to take breaks. By doing a scheduled coffee break with other members of the team on a video conference, everyone is reminded to relax. Similarly, you can mark the end of a workweek with a virtual happy hour, everyone releasing steam, and sharing what the weekend holds.
Keep an Open-Door Policy
A good boss in a physical office has an open-door policy, making themselves available to their team members to hear problems, accept suggestions, and deal with issues that affect morale and performance. The same practice could be used for virtual teams. Be sure to share with your team what channels of communication you are using and respond to requests to connect promptly.
At the end of the day, obtaining high morale is about empathy, communication, and having everyone’s interests at heart. A mutually rewarding outcome could be a happy workforce engaged in their work and providing valuable contributions to the business.
About the Author
Peter Giffen is a writer and editor who specializes in business and technology.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is,” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrants the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions, or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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