The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a uniquely stressful and disheartening crisis. Across the world, people have completely shifted their routines to abide by nation-wide lockdowns — including their work day routines. With many people now working remotely or removed from their normal, working decreased hours or working without promise of bonuses, promotions or raises, employee morale at many organizations has crashed. How can you encourage employees during this difficult time and why does employee morale matter for your business in the long run? We've got answers to both of these questions and more, just keep reading.
To understand what influences morale, we first need to know what it is. Professor Edwin B. Flippo, author of Principles of Personnel Management, describes morale as “a mental condition or attitude of individuals and groups which determines their willingness to co-operate." Different management researchers — of which there are many — say there are different ways to determine employee morale. However, the most agreed upon factors that influence employee morale include:
Why have positive employee morale? Building positive morale can provide many benefits to your organization, including:
As you read above, morale is important to maximizing productivity, reducing costs and improving your organization's competitive edge. Why shouldn't you want these benefits from your remote workers? Keeping your remote workers engaged by investing in their morale provides the same payoffs as engaging your in-office employees. And since studies suggest remote work can boost productivity and efficiency in the first place, doubling down on maximizing the output of these workers can lead to large advantages.
Based on Flippo's definition, poor employee morale is a negative attitude of employees towards their organization that decreases their willingness to contribute or engage. It kills employee efficiency and productivity, and can cause increased personnel costs.
As you read above, there are many factors that influence employee morale. Here are some factors that specifically cause low employee morale:
So, if the above factors cause low employee morale, how can you turn it around? And when the world is dealing with a global crisis that diminishes everyone's mental health and confidence in our systems, how can you fix employee morale? Here are five ways to do so:
The best way to boost employee morale is to make good decisions and to share those decisions with your employees. Even if a decision is hard or unpopular, transparent communication boosts trust and allows employees to feel like a part of the bigger whole — important contributors to employee morale. If you've recently made a decision that lowered employee morale, or if times are tough at the company and its impacting productivity, acknowledging the challenges and its impact on employees, then communicating a solution, can go a long way.
Undue levels of stress leads to employee burn out — and absolutely destroys morale. Even if times are tough for your team or business, encourage your teammates to stay calm and, as a leader, refrain from making hasty decisions. Give your employees time to prioritize their wellness and practice the same yourself.
As you read above, a strong recognition system for hard work or achievement can boost employee morale. Even if you don't have the resources to give pay raises or the power to give promotions, recognize your teammates efforts using a regular rewards system. Something as small as a Slack shout out or a Starbucks gift card can boost an employee's feelings of self-confidence and contribution.
Another important part of recognizing hard work is providing space for that hard work to turn into growth. If you aren't in the spot to reward employees with compensation changes, providing other benefits that encourage growth — like a title change or educational opportunity — can boost morale.
As mentioned before, stress and burn out are devastating to employee morale. Encourage employees to take the pressure off their work life by focusing on the personal. Encourage personal growth, mindfulness practices and more to see a boost in employee productivity and happiness.