You practically jumped out of bed from another one of those horrible dreams. Your partner rolls over and asks, “Another one of the night terrors, honey?” You nod sheepishly between chest-heaving sobs as your hands shake uncontrollably. “I just, I just,” you stammer. “I just hate my job so much.”
Sounds a bit extreme, doesn’t it? Well it’s not; a recent Forbes article stated that, “seventy percent of your employees hate their jobs.” What’s more, according to the University of Cambridge, work-related stress can lead to raised blood pressure and cardiovascular disease and may even contribute to substance abuse. That’s right. Not only do your employees hate their jobs, but it’s also killing them.
Sounds like employee morale could use a boost. Here’s a list of 15 ways to boost morale at work, keep attrition rates at a minimum, and keep your company’s success on an upswing 365 days a year.
#1. Look into employee discount programs.
Ever hear of Corporate Perks? It’s a national employee savings portal that allows small and medium-sized business to qualify for corporate rates and discounts. By leveraging the purchasing power of your employees, you can save on almost everything you want to buy. You might receive discounts on such things as travel, electronics, services, retailers, restaurants, mobile phones and more. A similar albeit smaller version is Great Work Perks, a Los Angeles-based free employee benefits program that offers local discounts on restaurants, spas, amusement parks, sports, etc. Find out what perks are available in your area.
#2. Team building exercises build strong teams.
Encourage peer-to-peer bonding, and help reduce conflict in the workplace. Think non-traditional team building events such as paintball, flag football, entering a corporate softball league, team bowling, group trivia night, obstacle course races like Warrior Dash and the Tough Mudder – you get the idea. You could even reward the winning team with a little convenience like being able to dress in casual attire for a week.
#3. Don’t underestimate the importance of a well-stocked break room.
A comfortable, clean break room or employee lounge with a well-stocked snack area will give your staff a place to unwind for a few minutes without having to leave the premises for that coffee shop down the road. Research has shown that on-site break environments make a difference in overall employee health and happiness and are key to boosting morale at work. Opt for healthy snacks, cushy furniture, and soft lighting, and watch employees flock to that area like moths to a flame.
#4. Break time should be mandatory.
Think break time isn’t that important? Think again. According to research from the University of Toronto, eating lunch at your desk without walking away from the workstation to recharge your batteries can have a significant impact on stress-related absenteeism, reduced productivity, and increased medical costs. So, make “coffee breaks” essential. Two 15-minute breaks a day will give your employees time to clear their minds and keep energy flowing. No room for a “nap pod” like Google has? Some companies might consider having a daily stretch around 2pm, just about the time that our evolutionary history tells our bodies to nap. Wake up those muscles, take some deep breaths, and catch your second wind.
#5. Celebrate employees’ achievements.
Your finance department has just completed a massive audit. Profits have steadily increased over the past several months. Sales exceeded their quota from last month. Find reasons to celebrate your employees, and show them how lucky you are to have them. Why not make mealtime on the company a regular occurrence, like catered breakfast the first Monday of every month, pizza party Fridays, or an impromptu afternoon dessert buffet or sundae bar. Food is fun! But if that’s not your thing, here’s a list from Johns Hopkins University’s human resources department of 101 Ways to Celebrate People.
#6. Comfort is key.
According to furniture manufacturer, Herman Miller, “…having some control over the workspace can improve comfort and the ability to get work done and reduce stress. This, in turn, can lead to greater productivity and better health.” Physical comfort can contribute to psychological comfort, affecting mood, cognitive function, and feelings of loyalty and commitment to one’s employer. In other words, pay attention to the comfort of the workspace you provide for employees. Is the paint color soothing? Are the chairs comfortable? Is there good natural light, office plants, and clean air? If you aren’t sure how to create comfort on your own, enlist the services of a design firm. It’ll do your business a world of good.
#7. Acknowledge special occasions.
Which would you rather have: a workplace that feels as disconnected as a cell phone with no reception, or a workplace that functions like one big happy family? Connecting with staff outside of your professional roles brings people closer, and the closer and happier your employees, the stronger their work ethic. So make it a point to include birthdays, anniversaries, new employee welcome events, cakes, cards, plaques, etc. you’re your regular routine. Your staff will appreciate it, and you’ll appreciate how much harder they’ll work for you when they know you care.
#8. Encourage free-flowing ideas.
Want to know the fastest way to find out what your employees think of the workplace and how they would improve it? Ask them. Monthly brainstorming sessions will poll staff’s ideas on what works and what doesn’t, along with suggestions on how to bring in more business and improve the company’s overall performance. Who knows the company better than the people who are doing the nitty-gritty work? Giving them an opportunity to express their concerns and opinions shows them they are a trusted part of the organization, and allows them to have a direct impact on your company’s success while boosting employee morale. Be a willing listener, and make sure they know your door is wide open.
#9. Show them the money.
Nothing boosts employee morale better than a bonus check. While you may not be able to give sizable sums of money across the board, there’s always room in the budget for a little “thanks for all you do” gift. So next year when holiday time rolls around, instead of throwing a corporate party that many employees find tedious, give them some bucks to spend on whatever their heart desires, or save for next summer’s vacation. It may take a minor chunk out of your operating expenses, but the returns will be worth it.
#10. Get involved in charitable causes.
Doing good works for others is a great feeling. Ask your employees to choose a different cause or charity every year and then make it your mission to volunteer your time and raise funds with a company match. Think walk-a-thons, dance-a-thons, charity runs, proceeds from Alex’s Lemonade Stand, fundraising for a local children’s hospital, volunteering with the Special Olympics or Habitat for Humanity, etc. Then, reward your staff for participating. Everyone involved gets four extra hours of vacation time, movie passes, a gift card for lunch at a local eatery – just something simple to show appreciation for your employees’ making the world a better place.
#11. Build trust.
Sounds easy, right? Well apparently, it’s not. According to Psychology Today, there’s a trust deficit in the workplace. So how can leaders cultivate a strong sense of interpersonal trust? They can keep their word, speak positively about employees and the office in general, demonstrate a strong work ethic, see the bigger picture and put smaller crises into perspective, listen to their staff, and be passionate about the company’s mission. If management doesn’t present a positive, supportive, can-do attitude, employees won’t, either. Positivity begets positivity, and great leaders are honest, clear, and treat people well consistently.
#12. Say thank you.
If employees don’t feel that their contributions are valued, what motivation will they have to do their best? The Times of India says that, “Being thanked for doing good work makes it easier to do more good work, increases the employee’s likelihood of continuing to work for the organization, and serves as a catalyst for attracting additional employees to the company.” Be sure to say thank you for a job well done. Write personalized thank you cards. When one employee does something amazing for the department, reward the entire department to reinforce teamwork. Send out email newsletters recognizing a different employee each month. Everyone has strengths, so take note of the way your employees shine, and then shout it from the rooftops for all to hear.
#13. Prevent boredom on the job.
Consider this: people care if you take an interest in their future. They like to learn. They want to improve their skills, and maybe even have the opportunity to test the waters working for another department for a while. Stimulating your employees’ interest in their jobs and giving them opportunities for growth can keep them engaged and maintain a higher level of productivity. It may not be possible to promote everyone, but try rotating them through different roles that will accentuate their strengths and help them grow beyond their current positions, even if the move is only lateral. It will keep them interested in their jobs, and the boost in employee morale will contribute to employee retention in the long run.
#14. Have a ball.
Sure, some employees may find corporate functions tedious (see #9). But some employees love getting together with their colleagues! Throw a winter holiday extravaganza. Have a costume party at Halloween with prizes for the best dressed. Take the gang to your local sports teams’ season openers. Host a summer kickoff barbeque. Go to the museum. Bust out the projector, and have movies running on loop in the conference room all day so that employees can relax on break and chow down on some popcorn and candy. The possibilities are endless, and the fun might just be endless, too!
#15. Lunch and learn.
Employees may spend forty hours a week on the job, but at the end of the day, they’re regular people with lives and families outside of the workplace. They have interests, hobbies, areas where they excel, and areas where they could use a bit of assistance. Think about what subjects may be of interest to your employees outside of work. For that matter, think about what you’d like to learn if you had the time. Do you need information on financial planning, how to care for aging parents, college tuition/financial aid for your kids, computer skills training, an overview of the Twitterverse and the overwhelming world of social media? Ask your staff what they want to know, and bring in a new speaker every month or several times a year on topics that they’ll love. An hour or two that enables your employees to relax and take their minds off work for a little while is an hour or two well spent.
When you weren’t running the company, what kind of boss did you hope you’d have? What did your employer offer that made you want to come to work every day, and what things made you want to run screaming in the other direction? Be the kind of boss you always wished you had, and your employees will reward you with continuous hard work and dedication. There are innumerable ways to boost morale at work, and you’d be remiss if you didn’t take the time to research the things that will have your employees smiling day in and day out.