Have you been in a situation where your team which was once super-productive, dynamic, creative, and full of energy suddenly seems to be completely drained out? They probably look like zombies with absolutely no energy levels, missing deadlines, making mistakes that they otherwise would never make, trying hard to push through the day. If this seems familiar to you, then it’s probably because your employee’s – or team's morale (aka mood in the workplace) is running low. Read one to know more about how to improve morale in the workplace and how to boost morale at work with a few employee morale ideas.

Workplace morale or team morale is nothing but a complex mix of perceptions, emotions, and attitudes that employees hold towards their work and their workplace. Employee morale, be it positive or negative, can have a direct impact on a number of factors like - job satisfaction, productivity, day-to-day decision making, workplace relationships, employee attendance and punctuality, performance, etc.

What Causes Low Employee Morale?

Employee morale, unquestionably, is one of the most vital but most difficult things to manage in a company. A consistent low morale can be a serious concern for your organization, as unhappy employees lead to higher turnover, poor customer service, and lower productivity. Therefore, understanding what are the possible factors that are causing low staff morale can help to fight the challenge head-on.

Here are some of the most common causes for low employee morale:

Lack of Professional/Personal Development

Lack of professional/ personal development
Lack of professional/ personal development

Employees are constantly looking for opportunities to grow in their current role and to be challenged in new ways, with new projects/tasks, etc. When employees fail to see how their career path is going to progress within the organization, or how they can develop their professional skills while doing what they are doing, it can be extremely dissatisfying.

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Lack of Clarity

Picture depicting Lack of Clarity
Picture depicting Lack of Clarity

Noting pulls the morale down like a lack of clarity. When employees don’t know what is expected out of them or what the organizational objectives are, they end up spending days (sometimes weeks) doing the same task -without any concrete results. This not only hinders employees from performing to the best of their ability, but also demotivates and disengages them.

Change in Work Dynamics

Picture depicting change in dynamics
Picture depicting change in dynamics

Change can be overwhelming and difficult to cope with. Be it change in leadership, work environment, team structure, etc. or a sudden switch to working from home (in a situation like that of the most recent COVID-19 pandemic), change can be extremely challenging. When this is accompanied by a lack of communication, it only leads to further confusion, ambiguity, and decreased engagement.


Feeling Invisible in the Workplace

Picture depicting lack of recognition
Picture depicting lack of recognition

People want to be appreciated for their efforts and dedication. When managers fail to recognize the hard work and dedication of their employees, it often leads to employees feeling invisible within the organization – further leading to loss of self-esteem, low employee morale, and disengagement.

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Lack of Trust

Picture depicting lack of trust
Picture depicting lack of trust

Managers often tend to get into micromanagement of their team members’ work when they don’t trust them enough. They tend to get involved in every step of the project execution, telling their employees what to do, how to do, and at times sitting with them to get it done their way. It’s frustrating, demoralizing and demotivating. People expect a certain level of freedom and authority to make their own decisions within the limitations of their job role.

How to address it: Communicate regularly to establish what is expected from your team and let your employees decide HOW they would want to do it. Also, create a work atmosphere where your employees feel free to openly discuss their challenges or roadblocks, without having to fear negative repercussions. Use features such as feedback surveys to collect their very valuable feedback

Whether you are a manager leading a small team or the leader of a large organization, one thing stays common - the more you connect with employees to understand their needs and how they feel, the more strategically you can help build their morale and guide them towards success.‍

Strategies on How to Improve Morale in the Workplace

Sometimes the most simple and plain things are the ones that matter the most and the same simple and plain things are the ones that need the most attention. This applies to workplace strategies as well.  It's often some of the simplest, yet well thought over plans that help build strong work morale.

Here are some of the strategies that organizations can adopt to know how boost employee morale at work:

Build Trust with Strong Communication

“If communication is not your top priority, all of your other priorities are at risk” said Bob Aronson

Communication plays a strong role in creating and maintaining a positive work environment while boosting staff morale. Employees of today are collaboratively minded and expect communication to be a two-way street. They expected to be updated with everything that’s happening in the organization, be it good or bad. Whether it’s about winning a large deal recently or about losing your existing customer, expanding business overseas or downsizing the strength, employees appreciate honesty in communication and tend to trust the organization more.

Establishing a strong communication framework where employees are provided ample opportunities to express their concerns and feelings and also given inputs on professional and personal development helps to create a workforce that boasts high morale and engagement.

Try This:
  1. Use technology (or intranet) to keep your workforce updated with developments
  2. Conduct regular 1-on-1 meetings with your team to understand their viewpoints, concerns, challenges, etc.
  3. Conduct regular surveys and polls to understand the “mood” within the organization

Recognize the Good Work and Reward the Efforts

“There’s nothing worse than feeling unseen and unheard in the workplace,” says Annie McKee, in her book How to Be Happy at Work.

People are generally not averse to putting in extra efforts when the business needs them to. However, when the effort goes unnoticed, it leads to thinking why did they even bother to put in all the effort in the first place. So, whenever someone in your team is doing great work, don’t hesitate to appreciate them. Even a simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way in influencing employee behavior. Did you know, research shows that 70% of employees say that motivation and morale would improve massively with managers saying thank you more often?‍

Further to this, devising a strong employee rewards and recognition program can help you to directly link recognition to a certain desired behavior or task, thus aligning employees to organizational goals. Not just that, it helps reinforce focus in day-to-day activities and motivates them to keep performing better. Be assured that nothing boosts self-esteem and productivity like timely appreciation. Try This:

  1. Use dedicated platforms: take the help of dedicated product platforms that help you design rewards and recognition programs that are true to your organizational DNA.
  2. Make recognition as personal as possible: like a handwritten thank you note, or a personalized thoughtful gift.
  3. Rewards are a Privilege: Make sure rewards and recognition aren’t just something you give away to everyone. People should feel privileged to be rewarded. It should feed their ego to make them feel truly appreciated
  4. Celebrate achievements however both big or small publicly, in open forums to boost morale at work

Emphasize Employee Wellness and Health

Employee health and wellness, be it physical, emotional, or financial, have a great impact on employee behavior. Happy and healthy employees tend to exhibit higher productivity and engagement. That is why most successful organizations these days emphasize on creating effective wellness programs.

According to a recent study, 89% of employees at companies that support well-being initiatives are more likely to recommend their company as a good place to work. A comprehensive and holistic employee wellness program not only encourages employees to make healthier choices to improve their overall health and wellbeing, but also results in a host of benefits like – improved job satisfaction, productivity and engagement, elevated morale, reduced healthcare cost and absenteeism, etc.

Try This:
  1. Design wellbeing programs that align with your business objectives
  2. Genuinely Promote wellness and health within the organization -encourage people to take breaks, reduce work stress as much as possible, provide help wherever required
  3. Use technology to encourage employees to keep fit and healthy and promote wellness

Value Employee Feedback

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve” said Bill Gates

Employee feedback can be an extremely powerful tool to boost morale. Employees feel empowered when they are encouraged to share their honest views about the organizational policies, leadership, management styles, or anything related to the business. They are likely to be happier and more engaged when they believe that their views are truly being heard and valued. Furthermore, research by Salesforce states that employees who feel their voice is heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

While employee feedback can be extremely wonderful when it’s positive, it can be equally hurtful and frustrating when it is negative and criticizing your decisions. However, whatever be the employee feedback (positive or negative), when received constructively can foster stronger professional relationships and help your organization perform better.

Try This:
  1. Create a conducive atmosphere for employees to share honest feedback – preferably anonymously where employees feel more comfortable
  2. Monitor your company profile on online employer review platforms. Employees often feel safe to share opinions on an independent third-party platform
  3. Ask questions to understand the feedback better – like “How could the situation be handled better?” or “Has this happened before?” etc.
  4. Publicly communicate the outcome of previously shared feedback

Nurture Workplace Relationships

“In union there is strength” - Aesop

Human beings by nature are social and thrive on positive interactions and meaningful relationships. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that employees who feel connected and supported by their peers, managers, and subordinates are the ones who are generally happier, more productive, and engaged to the organization.

A LinkedIn study of relationships at work found 46% of professionals around the world believe having work friends enhances their overall happiness. That is one of the reasons why great leaders encourage workplace friendships by creating conditions in which such relationships thrive. Encouraging employees to bond with each other by organizing weekly or monthly team building activities, outings, team lunches, office games, etc. can go a long way in fostering workplace relationships and improving the team morale.

Try This:
  1. Encourage teamwork and collaboration – appreciate and recognize when people collaborate to showcase better results
  2. Create opportunities for people to work cross-functionally – across various teams and across projects
  3. Conduct events and forums where employees can connect and bond

Bring on the Fun

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” – Proverb

Stringent work cultures that focus only on working hard without any fun or play not only affect the morale of the organization but also be detrimental to employee productivity. It’s important to create opportunities from time to time where employees can let their hair down, relax and have fun at work. Be it Pizza Fridays or week-long office vacations, family day or team outings, fun activities at work have a profound impact on improving employee morale.

Try this:
  1. Organize annual office parties for employees across the organization that can come under one roof to celebrate and have fun
  2. Encourage teams to go on lunch/dinner outings more often where they can socialize with their teammates
  3. Celebrate holidays and festivals to lighten the mood during the holiday season
  4. Organize small office games, birthday celebrations, retirement celebrations on a weekly/monthly basis

In Conclusion

Employees are the most important resources in any organization. They are the engines that drive an organization towards success. So, understanding how they feel is extremely crucial. Low employee morale can have a direct impact on productivity, churn, engagement, and performance. Therefore, identifying employee moods and coming up with innovative strategies to alleviate low morale can help build a happier and more successful organization.