Many workplaces have seen major upheaval in the past 18 months, as lockdowns, Zoom calls and economic uncertainty have drastically changed the way we do and view our work. In New Zealand, we have been luckier than most in reverting back to some sense of normalcy, but that doesn’t mean our workplaces haven’t been negatively affected. If you feel that the mood or productivity of your employees has declined, rest assured that it is possible to boost morale in your workplace again!

Positive employee morale results in a more productive and efficient workplace, better collaboration and far higher staff retention. A report by Gallup found that disengaged employees cost companies in the United States $450-550 billion per year in lost productivity; not only will foster a positive work environment give your company a competitive edge and create a space where people feel valued and confident to perform at their best, it will also save your company money.

If you feel that it’s time to improve morale in your workplace, here are a few tips to get you started.

Make sure your physical office or workspace is an enjoyable place to be

If people are working in a conveniently laid out and aesthetically pleasing workspace, they are more likely to enjoy being at work. Research has shown that people working in offices with plants and window views reported that they felt better about their job and the work they performed compared to those in windowless offices with no décor or plants.

Ask your team how they would like their workplace to be decorated, what music they would like to hear and what kind of workstations they feel would help their workflow, and accommodate their requests as best you can. If your employees work remotely, make sure they have the equipment they need to have a productive workspace.

Provide employee incentives

Easy incentives to provide are an extra day off, an occasional lunch in or out of the workplace, or a non-work activity that your particular team will enjoy. The aim with these incentives is to indicate to your employees that you value their time, hard work and wellbeing, and to provide opportunities for your team to bond personally.

Unexpected bonuses when an employee does a particularly good job on a project are also worth considering; research by Harvard indicated that giving unconditional financial gifts to your employees can boost productivity roughly as efficiently as hiring more workers.

Do not expect your employees to work overtime

If an employee feels they must spend every waking moment working, they will eventually burn out or find other work somewhere with more reasonable time expectations. If your employees seem to be constantly working over 40 hours per week, find new ways to increase workplace efficiency, or hire more people to share the workload.

Also, allow them to work flexibly regarding hours and location if possible. According to CNN, most workers around the world want flexible work schedules. Encourage genuine breaks, and avoid creating a culture where people aren’t expected to eat lunch at their desks.

Actively hire people and leaders who will contribute to a nice work environment

Your staff don’t have to be best friends but hiring with a healthy workplace and cultural fit in mind will ensure that disagreements or tensions between staff are at a minimum and that everyone enjoys showing up to work and working. This is especially important for your staff who are in positions of leadership – certain levels of emotional intelligence, communication and capability of giving feedback and recognition should be required of any manager. Leadership in the workplace directly impacts employee engagement and morale, so make sure you’ve got good people looking after your staff.

Set clear pathways for career development

Lack of growth is a significant cause of low employee morale. If staff cannot see their career progressing with you or they aren’t given new responsibilities, opportunities for upskilling or challenges over time, they will become unmotivated, disinterested in their work and likely begin looking for opportunities elsewhere.

Discuss with your employees what skills or roles within your business they would like to aim towards and see what you can do to help them achieve their goals.

Also, promote from within your company where possible, so people can see how their careers could progress if they remain working for you instead of looking to other companies for the next step in their career.

Communicate Often

Share positive company announcements with your staff, give recognition to employees who have done an exceptional job or reached important milestones, celebrate new hires and keep employees as much in the loop as you can about your business. Chron, a small business publication, found that job satisfaction generally increases and self-esteem improves when employees better understand the workings of the company; explain why policy or process changes are being made and what it will mean for the company long-term.

Check in with your staff in one-on-ones regularly, asking genuine questions about whether they are coping with their workload and how they would feel more supported at work. Getting feedback regularly, instead of just at annual reviews, will mean no massive issues have been brewing for a long time that you have been unaware of.

Action their feedback as soon as you can – something as simple as getting a toaster in your breakroom if your employees ask for one can go a long way in showing that you are prepared to address concerns.

Take a zero-tolerance policy on bullying, harassment and discrimination

Surely this one goes without saying, but no company culture needs to make allowances for negative interpersonal behaviour. Have strict protocols in place that allow you to take disciplinary steps or fire workplace bullies when necessary. Stand by your policies so that other employees know they are in a safe environment.