The current situation all over the world is one of dread and exhaustion. People are wary of the future and weary of the past two years that they have spent. Working is fun but times are hard and seem to be getting harder. The high of getting back to physical work is off and staff morale is lowering for most workplaces.
The lowering employee morale affects office environment and work performance. The question all human resource staff and managers need addressing is what can we do about it?
A few best practices for these situations sound like generic readings from an organizational or human behavior textbook. Reduce negativity, acknowledge anxiety, promote gratitude. The question remains, how can we do all this?
Realize that the general mood at work, of most staff depends on some factors which can be easily addressed to improve employee engagement and morale.
1. Ownership over Work.
In times when things seem to be spinning out of control, having control over work life is an important factor. This is particularly true for quick moving projects and tasks.
This can be easily managed by assigning specific tasks to specific employees to encourage performance. Post assignment, make sure that the resource is given the independence to perform the task and complete it. Be available for support and guidance but don’t hover over the staff member.
Doing this can flatten the organizational structure but is definitely going to give your staff a morale boost on doing their tasks independently
This flattens the usual hierarchical workflow, but definitely gives in-the-trenches employees more investment in their work.
2. Be open about the Company’s Health without Negativity
Make a culture of sharing overall company performance in the industry or segment it is working in. if you are much smaller, have a session to just review where the company is and where it is heading. Don’t sugar coat the problems and challenges but highlight the progress made and where key focus areas are emerging in the business.
Highlight plans about to go into execution and link it with concerned departments to create a sense of ownership and team spirit. This is particularly effective for small businesses where job security can be a concern in tough economic times.
Using these communications to highlight the departments and teams’ contributions helps to motivate lagging employees.
Make sure to use positive and “you” based language to communicate to make it more personal for the staff.
3. Focus on Manager’s Mental Health Too.
A manager who is not struggling with their own issues will not be generating positivity in their team. Make sure that all managerial staff and even leaders are supported during tough times. If someone seems to bestruggling with anxiety or negativity, help them take time to find balance.
Encourage healthy habits like short breather breaks from work. Short chat sessions with colleagues or outdoor breaks can be helpful. Promote healthy habits like yoga, breathing exercises and short walks to encourage physical health. Weekly gatherings like Friday lunches or early dinners can help top management unwind and brainstorm in a relaxed setting.
4. Make a habit of checking in with Staff.
Small talk is becoming underrated, making it a habit helps people catch up with each other. Make a habit of what is known as “water cooler chatter” to connect with staff. Know what people are up to? Answers to questions like how are they relaxing or how they are dealing with problems or what life is dealing them, are important to know so that they can be supported. Simply trying to know answers to such questions shows employees that they are valued and they may see other colleagues supported during problems
5. Offer Employees Time Offs
Based on the scale and budget of your workplace, you can offer employees paid time off from work. This could be a half-day every month or three days in a quarter to chill at home.
However, employees need to be educated about the purpose of these days and encourage them to use them well.
6. Establish an employee-to-employee recognition program.
To design a low-cost culture of positivity and good morale, design a departmental or team-specific plan where colleagues can reward their teammates for good work. This could be through credits for team spirit. These credits could be added up for small gift cards or added up to the performance evaluation. Rewards don’t have to be big, it could be a weekly bar of chocolate or free lunch on Friday or a box of mithai if that works
7. Develop a Social Message.
If employees are not happy with what the business is selling, they will not perform, and the business will suffer. Make sure that social and ethical norms are satisfied and that the resources you hire are on board with the business and where it is headed.
Have a tagline placed in all communications and employee swag bags with the message or its elements.
Along with applying some or all of these suggestions, remember that high morale is not possible for every employee all the time. As human beings, there are too many variables that affect us and our happiness.
It is important to try and continue trying, to encourage a positive change over time. The suggestions here will help in doing so.
Sadia Zaheer holds a Masters in Business Administration from IBA, Karachi. After working in several financial institutions in Client Management, Corporate Lending, Islamic Banking and Product Management she jumped careers to pursue a career in writing.
She is a Finance, Business and HR Development writer with four years of experience. She reads a lot and takes care of her multiple cats to remain calm.