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Employee morale is that seemingly elusive quality that you can feel in a work environment long before you notice its consequences, although research shows that morale — be it high or low — has a large effect on productivity. When morale is down, employees act lethargic, complaining is commonplace, and scowls abound. When morale is up, employees walk with a pep in their step, work is performed with vigor — even the air in the office feels healthier. If your office morale has become a bit lackluster of late, don’t throw in the towel and assume you can do nothing. Boosting morale isn’t just possible; it’s essential to the health of your company. From incentivizing volunteer work to having a good time, here are five ways to boost office morale.

Celebrate Accomplishments Creatively

While you may have posters around the office to remind everyone that “There is no I in T-E-A-M,” the truth of the matter is that when individuals or groups land big clients, meet a launch date on time, or otherwise knock the ball out of the park, it’s important to draw attention to their accomplishments in a celebratory way. While many companies tie financial incentive to major accomplishments, more creative ways of marking a job well done can be just as effective. From giving paid time off to throwing an in-office party that’s catered by the favorite restaurant of the one whose work you’re celebrating, get creative about the ways in which you let your employees know that you see the good work they’re doing and you appreciate it.

Pay Employees to Volunteer

Most people wish they had more time to give back to their communities, but few people are actually able to find the extra time in their schedules to get involved in volunteer work. By offering your employees as little as four paid hours a month during the workday to volunteer at the non-profit of their choice, you’ll increase morale by leaps and bounds. Not only will incentivizing volunteer work free up time they wouldn’t otherwise have, but paying them for that time will also contribute mightily to an overall positive sense of wellbeing that will permeate your entire staff.

Let Employees Know Their Work Is Meaningful

Everyone harbors a secret wish to live a life that matters, and while very few of us will achieve results like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr., letting your employees know the ways in which you find their work meaningful will go a long way in boosting office morale. Tell the story of why the work in which you all engage together matters to your community and the broader society. If you manufacture drapes, highlight the ways in which your environmentally sound choices make for a safer environment. If you run an IT firm, remind your employees about how essential technology is to the success of the clients for whom you work. In every way possible, let your employees know that their efforts matter far beyond the paycheck they get twice a month.

Give Small Perks With Big Impacts

You don’t have to offer every employee five weeks of paid vacation every year in order to lift your meager morale. Small perks can have a big impact on morale, too. If it’s at all possible, consider granting some of the following benefits to some or all of your employees:

  • Working from home one day a week
  • Flex time that’s truly flexible
  • Office coffee that tastes really, really good
  • Gym membership discounts
  • In-office massages twice a year

While some of these perks will set you back financially, the resulting boost in your employees’ attitudes and productivity will more than cover the cost.

Have a Good Time

No one wants to go to work if the entire day is devoid of fun, energy, joking, and other novel pleasantries. Most people spend more time at work than they do anywhere else but their home, and because of that, whether or not they find the place and atmosphere enjoyable is incredibly important. While it can take some time and effort to change a dour office environment into a more festive one, with intention and effort, it’s more than possible. Crack (appropriate) jokes during meetings. Invite members of your team out for drinks after work is over. Start a company softball team. In whatever ways feel natural to you, make your office environment one that feels more like a group of friends engaged in achieving the same goals than an environment where strangers try to cooperate together.

If your office’s morale is low, improving it isn’t going to happen overnight. However, when you put these five recommendations into practice, you’ll have increasingly happy and productive employees, and increasingly healthy business.

By Tanya Oliver

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