With widespread layoffs, uncertain economic times, and massive turnover, it is no wonder that employees have lower morale than ever before. And it’s coming at a massive detriment to teams – affecting retention, work quality, and company culture.
It’s also coming at a major loss to employers – disengaged employees cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity.
36% of U.S. workers plan to leave their jobs in 2023. An interesting counterpoint? A third of employees are staying because of the relationships they have with their coworkers and company. Higher morale also increases productivity and leads to higher quality work.
Increasing team morale is more important than ever. So where do you start?
What is team morale?
Team morale refers to the attitudes and overall satisfaction of employees in the workplace or whatever organization they are a part of, translating to the belief these employees have in the company. When morale is high, team members are engaged, fulfilled, and satisfied by their work and their team. When morale is low, however, employees may feel negative, unhappy, disengaged, and frustrated with their work.
Team morale doesn’t just show up in physical work spaces. Team morale happens in both in-person and virtual work environments, taking different forms in terms of engagement and how informed and present employees seem to be.
Causes of low morale in the workplace
Low morale is contagious. If just one colleague feels negatively, it can sink an entire team – especially because so many of the causes of low morale are interpersonal. Leaders must learn the root of low team morale and work to fix the foundational issues that are causing it.
Some causes of low morale in the workplace include:
In a survey of HR managers, 33% of them thought a lack of communication was the main cause of low morale. If employees don’t know what they should be doing at any given time or are unsure about their own trajectory or company future, they can feel shut off from any meaningful work and career movement.
Additionally, any dishonesty can erode trust between team members and make employees question leadership’s ability to manage.
Leaders have a big role in managing morale in the workplace. They not only act as a model for behavior, they also represent the company and are the team’s pipeline to management and change.
The best leaders are able to guide their employees to perform great work, while still giving them the space and trust they need to do what they need to do. On the other hand, micromanagement can make employees feel nervous and not trusted.
Additionally, leaders that don’t give praise or acknowledge their team’s actions are at risk of affecting morale. Compliments and recognition can increase a team member’s self esteem and encourage them to keep doing their best work. Not recognizing them for their accomplishments can make them feel unseen and like they don’t matter in the grand scheme of the organization.
Think of the different relationships that occur in the workplace: employee-leader, employee-employee, and employee-customer. These relationships have big implications for how a business runs – creating a fragile ecosystem of interpersonal relations.
Consider the leader that treats their team with disrespect. Or the coworker that doesn’t know their colleagues and feels disconnected from the projects they are working on. The employee can get burnt out, negative, and in turn affect the customer and bottom-line.
It goes beyond just feeling disconnected. If the team doesn’t have positive relationships with each other, it can also affect how they feel about their day-to-day work life.
How do you build team morale?
There are many ways to raise team morale. First, think of what the causes of low morale may be and work from there. For example, if you get feedback that there is little recognition in place, you can institute ways to give team members shoutouts. In a virtual environment, this may look like implementing a Slack channel specifically for praise with a Slack app like Shoutouts by Airspeed that encourages teammate recognition.
Leaders can also implement more bonding opportunities for virtual teams. Using an app for Introductions can be a fun way for team members to learn more about each other and kickstart some great conversations. Taking some time during regular meetings for team-building activities can make a big difference too, as it shows your team members that you are prioritizing their happiness along with regular work activities. For an easy way to get started, try kicking off a team meeting with icebreakers using a Slack app like Icebreakers by Airspeed.
In addition to building team morale from recognition and bonding opportunities, leaders can also communicate more frequently and honestly, spend more intentional time with team members, and explore the best way to manage the team and their workload.
Team morale examples
There are more tangible examples from companies that we can pull from when it comes to increasing team morale.
LinkedIn not only offers unlimited vacation time, they also provide 17 paid holidays a year, and in 2021 gave the company a paid week off. While these additional days off may be more of an upfront cost, they can pay dividends down the road in terms of satisfaction and combating burnout.
Credit Karma provides not only a wellness and self-care reimbursement, they also offer a stipend for professional development and the opportunity for continuous learning courses. These stipends show employees that they are being invested in and are an integral part of the company’s growth. This also comes amid an acquisition from Intuit in 2020. Their employee retention stayed strong: There were 1300 employees when the deal was announced, when it closed there were 1290.
Several companies are also taking an innovative approach to team-building activities. Whether it’s week-long retreats, interactive games like Escape Rooms or improv classes, or more social activities like a class, these activities offer the opportunity to team build in an environment outside of work, and have fun along the way.
Team morale has a huge impact on company culture. While it may seem insurmountable to combat, with a few changes in communication and relationship-building, companies can set themselves up for success with retention and weather this tumultuous workplace storm.