Do your employees seem less energetic than usual? Is the overall mood heavier, or the quality of your team’s work slipping? These may be symptoms of low employee morale – and Indeed is here to help.

Uncertainty and lack of clarity are common causes of low morale at work, and with much of the workforce experiencing dramatic changes over the last couple of years due to COVID-19, it's no wonder morale has become worse. 

Low morale among your workforce can be costly, resulting in decreased productivity and higher turnover, which directly affect an organization’s financial health and profitability. In fact, the cost of replacing one single employee can range from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary, and highly engaged teams are shown to have 21% greater profitability compared to teams that are disengaged. 

But it doesn’t have to get to that stage. While boosting morale won’t happen overnight, let’s explore some ways you can improve morale by fostering a healthier, more positive work environment. 

When do you need to boost morale?

Low morale at work can stem from a variety of causes. Your employees might be overworked, resulting in frustration and fatigue. Conversely, they could feel bored and unchallenged; perhaps there is a lack of opportunities for advancement within your company, causing employees to feel unmotivated and uninspired. 

Lack of good communication or shifting goals and expectations can also affect team morale. Without it, people are unclear about what they are working toward and why. And as we mentioned, factors outside the workplace, such as the pandemic or natural disasters, can also make people feel more discouraged. While these outside factors are not easily solvable, what steps can employers take to improve morale in the workplace? 

Create a safe, supportive work culture 

To address low morale, start by evaluating your culture. Psychological safety at work is one of the most important factors — in fact, 89% of employees say it’s essential to creating positive workplaces. Encouraging honest feedback, having employees say what is on their mind and making sure not to take a defensive stance can all contribute to a safe and supportive environment, which in turn can improve morale. 

If you notice that your employees are dispirited or not producing their usual quality work, set up a face-to-face meeting, whether in-person or over video, to discuss the problem. They may need your advice to find a solution or require time off to deal with a personal situation. If they say they feel bored and unchallenged, perhaps a mentorship opportunity could provide new challenges while also helping out less experienced employees. The key is to listen and show that you are listening, and make sure your team knows you’re there to help however you can. 

Empower top performers to make decisions 

Another way to boost team morale is to empower standout employees to own certain tasks or projects, displaying their leadership skills and creative problem-solving. Provide feedback and direction when necessary, but otherwise, leave it up to them to complete the work and report back with results. 

Along the way, don’t forget to track and discuss their progress and the outcome, giving them feedback on what they’ve done well and guidance on how they can approach potential challenges. This can give your employees more autonomy and ownership over their work, as well as a chance to build their confidence and progress in their career, thus improving their morale. 

Recognize good achievements

To counteract low morale, increase employee recognition. Celebrate your employees’ achievements and ensure these are communicated throughout the organization; for example, by featuring them on the company intranet or through a well-crafted note to the team. Let the employees you’re recognizing know you appreciate their efforts and their impact on the team. 

To determine who to recognize, periodically ask yourself if an employee has gone out of their way to help others, recently improved their job performance, or led an impactful project. Ask members of your team to offer suggestions, as well. 

Based on the level of impact, consider giving them a reward — for instance, a gift card, paid day off or monetary bonus — depending on what your company’s policy on rewards and recognition is. This recognition can motivate employees and make them feel more confident in themselves and their abilities.                  

Build more flexibility into the work environment

Flexibility can make or break employee morale. Employers should understand that people work very differently depending on their individual work styles, the environment and even the type of job they have. 

For companies with roles that allow for flexible working arrangements, employees should have the option to get their work done in ways that better integrate into their lives, versus strictly adhering to a “9-to-5” workday in the office. For example, they can choose to take a break if they hit a wall and revisit their work once refreshed, or start the work day a bit later than usual without worrying about breaking the rules. 

By creating a flexible work environment, you signal to your employees that you trust them, while honoring that everyone has their own unique rhythm. This can help increase both job satisfaction and productivity: a win-win. 

Plan engaging, optional activities  

Work is about more than just getting the job done. Some people enjoy the social and team-building aspects of work, and get recharged by the opportunity to get to know their colleagues better. 

Plan engaging activities for your team to facilitate employee interaction while also providing a fun distraction. Activities can boost morale by getting employees out of their comfort zone and promoting teamwork, encouraging employees to relate to each other as people rather than just coworkers. In fact, according to a study by the Harvard Business Review, one of the characteristics that successful teams share is that members take breaks frequently and engage in side conversations about non-work topics. 

These activities can be as simple as a weekly virtual hangout to discuss a particular topic or taking work style tests to learn more about one another. They can also be more involved, such as a yearly retreat where your team can gather, play games and get to know each other outside the office. 

Act now to improve employee morale

Low morale at work can hurt your business, but there are ways employers can prevent and combat this. By creating a safe and supportive work culture, empowering employees to make important decisions, recognizing achievements, building more flexibility into your employees’ work environments and planning engaging activities that promote interaction, you can create a healthier, more positive workplace where employees want to do well.