How to Address Workplace Morale When It Is Impacted by External Factors
Workplace morale and employee engagement define whether staff members feel enthusiastic and excited by their work and their level of involvement in the workplace. When employee morale is high, it feels like anything is achievable – staff are productive and motivated to get their work done, going above and beyond in many cases. But when workplace morale is low, everything can suffer as a result.
So what affects workplace morale? Human emotions are complex and a variety of factors could be at play, ranging from internal politics to external pressures. Duties and work relationships are internal factors affecting engagement, whilst external factors may include family responsibilities or competing career circumstances perhaps. But what can employers do to address workplace morale when impacted by external factors that are out of their control? Read on for our top tips.
What External Factors Might Impact Workplace Morale?
Low morale in the workplace isn’t necessarily a sign of a lacklustre or toxic office environment. Often, an unexpected or dramatic change can instigate a downturn in an employee’s level of engagement. The Covid-19 pandemic is a good example of this on a larger scale – an unprecedented external factor which proved extremely disruptive for businesses and their employees.
Many office-based companies were forced into adopting a fully remote workforce with minimal time to adapt, along with no clear idea of when normal business practices might resume once again. For some of these employees, the mandatory work-from-home policy left them feeling isolated, and disengaged from their colleagues, management and workload. Once this feeling of disengagement creeps in, it’s difficult to keep up a positive level of morale.
In addition to this, employees may be dealing with smaller scale, more personal pressures, such as caring for family members, or managing demanding social obligations, which can make it hard to stay engaged and upbeat about work. On top of this, if an employee gets stuck in a position with limited upward mobility, their level of excitement about that role can wane. All of these factors combined can contribute to a drop in engagement and morale.
What Can Employers Do To Address Low Workplace Morale?
Whilst employers may have an easier time addressing low workplace morale when it relates to factors within their control, it is trickier to combat employee stress and unhappiness when they are being driven by external pressures.
In addition, it can be even more difficult for employers to bolster their employees’ confidence when managing a remote team. However, it’s critical to meet the challenge of low employee morale before it fosters a negative work environment and causes the best talent to leave.
Here are some things you can do to improve general workplace morale:
- Consider offering flexible work options
An employee that is being pulled into family emotional situations may struggle to commit the time, energy and effort needed to perform optimally at work. Although there is an old saying that “personal problems should be left at the door”, the idea that external factors should not affect work is easier said than done.
If possible, it may be worth considering if the business can offer flexible work options. This may mean offering ‘core hours’ (such as between 10am – 4pm) and trusting your team to make up the remaining hours in their own time, providing them with greater autonomy and freedom. Some companies are even now trialling a four-day week to allow staff the benefits of a longer weekend – a programme that has already seen major success in the companies that have tested it so far. In fact, we’ve written about the positive results of a four-day working week but question what’s next.
If these substantial changes to your business model are not possible, it might still prove beneficial if you can offer some element of flexibility or an increased amount of free time. Smaller scale incentives might include an early Friday finish every quarter, or even regular ‘Coffee and Catch Up’ breaks, helping to alleviate pent-up pressure and foster a sense of community and kinship in the workplace.
- Stay connected
When working remotely, employees need to know that their manager and senior leaders are still there for them should they have issues, and need someone to help them through.
The key to staying connected while working remotely is to spend time with staff. Although this may only be virtual, the act of dedicating time to them is important. If you already hold one-to-ones, you may benefit from making these more regular while working remotely.
Be sure not to spend all that time talking about targets or upcoming deadlines. Showing an interest in what people are doing outside of work helps to build and maintain relationships with staff – and shows that you care about them as humans, which has a great effect on morale.
- Celebrate your employees’ achievements
Whilst pressures might be coming from external sources, creating a positive work environment within will help to foster an enhanced sense of wellbeing and productivity. One key way to achieve this is to celebrate your team’s achievements and ensure they feel valued. For example, your marketing team has just successfully completed a three-month overhaul of a client’s website, or your sales team hit their latest target. Perhaps a member of staff received positive feedback from a customer or another completed a qualification that they’ve been studying towards.
Whether the win is big or small, recognising both individual and team wins is a key way to boost workplace morale and lift the weight of some external factors that might be causing stress. By celebrating these wins, you are not only providing that employee with a mark of approval for their hard work, but also recognising their contribution to the business as a whole. This can lead to a renewed sense of purpose and, in turn, make them more enthusiastic about taking on similar challenges, as well as encouraging other members of the team to do the same.
- Prioritise employee mental health and wellbeing
Prioritising employee mental health and wellness is another way to show that you value your team, which in turn will help to boost workplace morale. Even if they are suffering from the pressures of external factors, knowing that the workplace is a safe space where they will feel supported and listened to can help immeasurably.
When employees are aware that the organisation they work for values their wellbeing, employee retention rates improve, which makes the business highly attractive for prospective employees too.
Implementing incentives like meeting-free days, encouraging teams to take their lunch breaks together, or setting a standard for finishing work at a reasonable hour are all ways to promote employee mental health and wellness within your business, providing wellbeing and resilience sessions for staff can made a huge difference too. Providing mental health first aid training is another way to support employee wellness by accommodating conversations and, where possible, connecting those struggling with professional services.
A company’s leadership and culture are the foundation for strong employee morale. If you notice that workplace morale at your business appears to have taken a turn for the worse, it is important to take action.
The first stage is to establish whether employee morale is being affected by internal or external factors, and to act on this appropriately. If there are internal issues, then you can take direct action to improve your internal communications, teamwork, and management. If there are external factors impacting employee engagement, then it is important to offer support where possible – and otherwise make the company culture and workspace a rewarding and exciting place to be