Toward a Happier Workplace: 5 Tips to Reverse Flagging Morale


Think low workplace morale is primarily an aesthetic issue, something to be papered over with platitudes and window dressing?


Think again. According to figures cited by Roberts Wesleyan College’s Michael Blankenship, poor workplace morale costs U.S. businesses some $350 billion per year. That’s down to as many as 22 million “actively disengaged workers” whose absenteeism and apathy adversely impact their employers’ bottom lines.


If you’re dealing with flagging morale at your workplace, consider implementing these five relatively low-cost strategies to raise it — without raising anyone’s base pay.


  1. Boost Flex Time


Today’s workers bear no resemblance to the salarymen (and they were almost all men) of yesteryear. They’re defined by far more than their workaday responsibilities, and they expect a flexible schedule commensurate with their multifaceted identities. Reflect this expectation in a “whole worker” approach that includes ample flex time and limits mandatory in-office hours for workers who don’t need to be physically present to do their jobs. As long as they get their work done, who’s to argue whether it happens at 5am, noon, or 9pm?


  1. Schedule a Weekend Getaway


A weekend getaway is another great way to show that you care about your employees as people, not cogs. Find a camp or resort near your headquarters and schedule a strict “no work” weekend filled with team-building exercises and unstructured time. Your team will appreciate the gesture, even if the event doesn’t break any new professional ground.


“We regularly host small business groups at Gull Harbour,” says David Janeson, owner of a small marina and inn property on Manitoba’s Hecla Island. “Guests almost invariably leave happier and chattier than when they arrive.”


  1. Add Fringe Benefits


Sweeten your employees’ compensation packages with cost-effective fringe benefits — potentially valuable perks that don’t require base pay raises.


The IRS’s definition of fringe benefits is pretty broad. Here are some common options: transportation benefits, employee stock options, health savings accounts, meals, tuition reduction, and more. You know your employees best, so it’s up to you to determine which (if any) of those work for them.


  1. Bulk Up Your Year-End Bonuses


If you’re not able to give your employees a raise right now, do the next best thing and bulk up their year-end bonuses. Even if all you do is subsidize their holiday shopping, you’ll earn valuable brownie points.


  1. Institute an Open-Door Policy


Your employees have opinions. Make it clear that you hear them — and that you’re actually willing to do something about legitimate workplace issues — by instituting a no-questions-asked open-door policies. No matter how junior, any employee should feel comfortable walking into your office with questions or concerns. Since it may not be appropriate for you to adjudicate every complaint, you’ll want to extend this policy to your HR department as well.


A Long Road to Better Morale


These six steps are just the first in a long road to better workplace morale. Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once — but don’t get too complacent with the way things are, either.