Morale is so important. If people are happy with their workplace, they enjoy going to work in the morning, have fewer sick days, are more productive and tend to stick around longer – reducing the cost of having to retrain workers.
Of course, we all know that. We’re all aware that if people are happier they’re going to do better. That realization is not what we struggle with. What we struggle with is how to actually make people happier and to boost morale.
So what can you do?
Allow time for socializing
One of the strangest things about the modern workplace is that socializing between employees is often frowned upon. Some managers are under the illusion that it’s actually possible for the majority of people to work uninterrupted for 8 or more hours a day, five or more days a week.
Of course, we all know that’s not true. Almost all of us need (and search for) little moments away from our work so that we can recharge our batteries and give ourselves a little bit of mental space.
Socializing is actually one of the best ways for many people to recharge. It creates positive feelings, generates interest and promotes well-being. The thing is, because people don’t feel they should socialize, they end up looking for other ways to recharge their batteries that are less helpful for morale and less useful.
That’s not very good, is it? So, instead of giving people the idea that socializing is bad, make it clear that people should be able to sit down and have a chat. This will boost morale and allow people to form relationships, which in turn will make them care more about where they work.
Create after work events
In fact, don’t just create opportunities to socialize at work, but also create opportunities to socialize after work. Have Friday happy hours, take the team go-carting, go to yoga classes or create other opportunities for people to come together and talk without the work clock ticking.
The best way to find out what events people want is to actually ask them. Let people submit their ideas, create a list of workable things that you can actually do and then have people vote on it. The great thing about this strategy is that it also creates the opportunity for people to anticipate enjoyment, which is often as enjoyable (or even more so) than the actual thing.
Give space to those who need it
On the other side of the scale, there are people who really just want to get on with their work and find all that chatting very distracting. In fact, some people thrive if they can be left alone as much as possible.
There needs to be space for these people as well. If you’ve got an open floor plan, for example, then make sure that the possibility also exists for people who can’t take that (or need to really concentrate) to get away. Some offices will have a quiet space where dividers keep people separated and there can be absolutely no talking, for these people to retreat to.
If that’s not to your liking or not possible, then shell out for some noise-cancelling headphones and give everybody in the office a pair. In that way, even if they are in an open floorplan they can still create their own pocket where they can get on with things.
Outsource when overworked
There is nothing quite as demotivating as having an insurmountable mountain of work that keeps growing however hard you try to tackle it. Don’t let that happen. Instead, when people feel that they’re working too long, but you don’t yet have a new employee lined up, start outsourcing some of the most boring stuff.
After all, that kind of work is generally easy to outsource, given all the networks that exist nowadays, and is the most outsourcing-friendly, as it is the work employees do not like to do. The best part? If the person you’re outsourcing it to turns out to be very gifted at what they’re doing, then you can always decide to bring them into the team permanently, thereby sidestepping the entire problem of searching for new personnel.
One on ones
Equally important, make sure that your employees have time to speak with you one on one. Sure, some people will have no problem speaking up in a group or seeking you out if there is a problem. Others won’t feel quite as comfortable about that, however.
For these people, it is important that there is a regular meeting set up so that they can share what they’re thinking and you can find out what’s going on in their heads. If done correctly, this can be widely appreciated and give you ample warning when things are starting to head in the wrong direction, thereby allowing you to nip a problem in the bud long before it becomes serious.
Discuss, don’t criticize
Yes, people do things wrong. It happens. And when that happens, you want to make sure that their mistakes are pointed out. It is, however, much better if that’s done in a discussion rather than through criticism. For, not only do we not like criticism, we actually tend to close up and be less likely to remember the exact point that was being made.
Instead, make the point part of a discussion. Make it clear why you understand why they might have chosen that route, but why it isn’t the best course of action.
Equally important, when there is a mistake or something has been done wrong, remember to discuss the action, not the person. Being told ‘you did this wrong’ sucks, but being told ‘you’re an idiot’ is far more harmful (and it doesn’t help). It is immensely demotivating when people engage in personal attacks and it makes it far more likely that the person will not actually improve but instead feel that they’re not up to the challenge of the job.
And possibly most importantly, always remember the golden rule to treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. How would you like to be approached? How would you like the situation to be handled? What would be the best way for you to feel better at work?
There have been plenty of studies that have demonstrated that people in positions of power are less empathetic. For that reason, it’s vitally important that you take steps to boost your empathy as much as possible in order to counteract that.
If you can do that, if you can be empathetic to your employees, then people will feel respected and listened to. And once you’ve got that down, it’s a sinch to keep morale high.
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