Research suggests that happier employees can boost a company’s productivity and profitability. According to a 2014 study by the University of Warwick, happiness makes people 12% more productive, while an analysis of several studies by Harvard Business Review showed that productivity is 31% higher and sales 37% higher when employees are happy or satisfied.
But how do you improve job satisfaction when you’re working with tight budgets? Most small businesses can’t afford to incentivize employees through bonuses and pay rises, yet there are plenty of more cost-effective ways to boost morale that are just as, if not more effective than monetary rewards.
Promote a creative office environment
We recently had to let some employees go, and I noticed a general dip in morale across the business. This impacted heavily on the productivity and positivity of our team, so we decided to introduce moveable walls of plants which can be wheeled around and used to split the office into different sections. It means that the space looks slightly different every day, our employees feel more in control of their working environment and they’re encouraged to use their creativity in an active way.
Communal drawing boards are another cost-effective way to promote creativity; these can be set up on the walls for employees to write messages or draw pictures. We’re also about to install a sleep pod so that people can take naps andduring the day.
Introduce flexible working hours
In a recent Guardian article, Tom Neil, a guidance writer for , predicted that for an organization to attract and retain a happy and productive workforce, employers need to think beyond traditional boundaries. “That means running a business in an open-minded and adaptable manner,” he said. “Most roles can accommodate some sort of flexible working arrangement.”
If employees get to choose their working hours to suit when they’re most productive, it can have a very positive impact on a workforce’s morale as individuals feel independent and appreciated. Our employees can start and leave whenever they like as long as the whole team is together between 11am and 4pm and they clock their hours.
Make it fun
Recently we introduced a leaderboard to encourage our employees to be more proactive. Our employees are divided up into teams and awarded ‘Walton Bucks’ every time they’re recognized as being proactive. These are added up on a big white board in the office, plus you can grab a chocolate or sweet from the treat basket.
At the end of the week, the losing team has to serve the winning team lunch, and at the end of every month, the most proactive individual is crowned the best virtual assistant and wins a voucher for a massage or a special meal. It’s completely changed the atmosphere in the office; there’s a greater sense of togetherness and so much laughter. Most importantly, people feel recognized for their achievements and proud of their work.
Show your gratitude
When you’re busy trying to balance hundreds of different things, it’s easy to forget to say thank you, but even a quick email can make a huge difference to an individual’s sense of worth and general morale. Take the time to explain to your employees how their work will contribute to the company’s bigger aims, and show them praise when they do a job well. This will encourage them to keep achieving and to push themselves further.
Create a sense of community
I strongly believe that a healthy company culture can transform the success of any business. That means building a clear brand image, a sense of pride in what you’re trying to achieve and a feeling of togetherness.
Encourage teamwork and collaboration where possible, create social groups where your employees can chat and exchange ideas (we use Slack and Basecamp), and organize events outside of working hours where people have the chance to connect in a more informal setting. In the end, you’re all working towards the same goal, so it makes sense to share knowledge and resources to improve productivity and the quality of work.
Whilst most of the above are longer-term initiatives that can be slowly introduced and developed, there’s plenty that you can do to boost office morale right away. Start by asking your employees for feedback on the working atmosphere and brainstorm ideas as a team so that everyone gets the chance to contribute and understand what you’re working towards. Encourage your employees to take a full lunch break away from their desks or surprise them by allowing them to leave half an hour early or arranging for an afternoon break with tea and cake.
Morale dips when work becomes too repetitive and mundane, so try to brighten the mood by making today slightly different. There’s a good chance you’ll see immediate effects.
About the author
Richard Walton is the founder and managing director of AVirtual, which provides virtual personal assistants to entrepreneurs, executives and other professionals. Prior to AVirtual, Walton founded Global Vision International (GVI), which he grew to a 250-strong social enterprise operating in more than 40 countries.