Many business owners and managers are facing budget cuts that they haven’t experienced in many years. With health care costs and other benefits increasing and revenue either flat or decreasing, many clients have told us that they will be freezing wages at least through mid-year. While they fully understand the necessity of this measure, they are also concerned on how this decision will affect their employees. What will be their response? What about their morale and will it have an adverse effect on their performance? No one likes to be the bearer of bad news…so what can be done to soften the blow? Are there some low cost morale boosters that can be implemented in your business during these challenging times?
This year, many businesses will not be increasing their payroll budgets. Not because they don’t want to provide their employees with their annual raises, but because the current economic conditions have given them no options. While management studies have shown time and time again that pay is not the prime motivator, any business owner knows that NOT giving a raise (especially if one has been given regularly in the past) can definitely be a de-motivator if the business does not take extra steps to soften the blow. Small gestures, little to no cost ‘actions of gratitude’, can have a significant impact on employee morale and productivity.
Here are some ‘actions of gratitude’ we have either put into practice at Red, or have been warmly welcomed at one of our clients’ companies:
- Remember to smile and laugh at work…these expressions go a long way in setting a great mood and tone in the workplace.
- Say “thank you” and “please”. These are three of the most potent words a manager can use. They go a long way in letting your employees now you value and respect them.
- Openly communicate with employees. Share as much as possible about your business plans and goals with your employees. Now more than ever, sharing information with them will strengthen bonds and make employees feel like they are part of a team. They’ll work harder at helping you achieve your aspirations, keeping focused on building the future instead of on fear of layoffs.
- Have themed dress days or, if your business normally has a more formal environment, casual dress days. Wearing something that is not part of the usual 9-5 attire can be a great stress breaker.
- Offer flexible scheduling if possible. If you can, offer telecommuting or flexible hours (i.e., 10am-7pm instead of 8am-5pm). Would a 4 day/10 hours a day schedule work for your business? If you have a business structure that allows some or all of these flexible schedules, offering them may increase employee motivation and productivity.
- Would your work environment make a happy home for a cat or dog (or some other type of animal such as a bird or hamster)? Our furry friends can help tremendously with lowering stress….just be sure to check for employee allergies.
- Check with appropriate vendors to see if they are willing to offer discounts to your employees. If possible, offer to do the same for their employees.
- Fill your employee break-room with lots of games, decks of cards and puzzles. We have one client who has a pool table available for employees to use.
- If you can squeeze it into your budget, offer employees the option to apply for an emergency short term, interest-free loan. Specify an amount that employees may borrow if they find themselves needing extra cash quickly. As an example, someone in your business might need help paying that high winter heating bill. Employees can repay the amount over time through payroll deductions.
- Have lunch brought in for employees….not necessarily for meeting sales or productivity goals…but as an ‘action of gratitude’.
We all know employees are always an important part of making our businesses successful. We hope we have provided some ideas you can utilize to improve office morale during these challenging times.