How to Avoid Low Morale at Work

August 4, 2023
How to Avoid Low Morale at Work

Only 15% of employees are engaged in the workplace.1 That means the other 85% may not be fully committed to their daily work. Regardless of the environment, morale plays an essential role in employee engagement and productivity. Low morale can result in a decrease in motivation, high stress levels and a general sense of disengagement among employees, which can cost businesses millions of dollars. However, with a few strategic changes, small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) can take proactive steps to avoid low morale. We’ll explore some of these strategies to help SMBs improve employee morale and enhance overall experience.

What is Low Morale?

Morale is a term that’s used to describe how your employees feel about work. It includes things like satisfaction levels, their general outlook on their job and how they resonate with the work they’re doing. Low morale occurs when employees have negative feelings about these things. They tend to have a poor employee experience and are more disengaged than employees with high morale. Although morale can fluctuate based on subjective experiences outside of the office, it's also highly influenced by business structure, responsibility and more.

A Few Potential Causes of Low Morale

As a manager, it can be difficult to monitor all your employees for signs of low morale, but when they do occur, they’re often fairly obvious. Employees may have major attitude changes, show resistance to certain policies or miss their deadlines. They may also engage in harmful or unnecessary gossip. This can result in low motivation, a general decrease in productivity and may cause an employee to feel unappreciated. Over time, these decreasing levels of drive may lead to severe absenteeism and high rates of turnover. To take a proactive approach, consider some of the potential causes of low morale in the workplace.

Lack of Communication and Transparency

Clear communication and transparency are crucial for employee morale. When managers don't communicate regularly or don't provide enough information, employees may feel left in the dark or undervalued. This lack of transparency can lead to mistrust and uncertainty, which can decrease morale.

Unrealistic Workload

Setting unrealistic goals and workloads will also lead to burnout and low morale. When employees feel overwhelmed and overworked, it often results in low productivity, high stress levels and an overall lack of motivation.

Poor Employee Experience

Employees who have a poor employee experience may also have low morale. Similarly, when employees feel like their needs aren't being met, they may become disengaged and less productive. Focusing on employee experience will have several benefits for your business, including enhanced morale and less turnover.

Negative Work Environment or Company Culture

A negative work environment or company culture can be toxic for employee morale. If employees experience any type of bullying or harassment, things can get even worse. Plus, when the work environment is negative, it can affect mental health and well-being. Be diligent about employees who contribute to negative working environments to avoid further issues.

Poor Leadership Styles and Management

When managers micromanage or are too hands-off, it can result in low motivation and disengagement. Managers who don't provide enough support or who don't recognize the contributions of their employees may also contribute to a negative work environment.

Different Ways to Avoid Low Morale

Although low morale can be caused by several factors, SMBs that take a proactive approach can avoid longstanding issues while boosting overall employee experience. Consider some of the following ways to avoid low morale and help your workforce function at their best.

Encourage Open Communication

One of the easiest ways to improve morale in your workplace is to make sure that communication is open and available to everyone. Employees shouldn’t feel like they can’t mention an issue with their supervisors and they shouldn’t be kept in the dark about things happening that could affect their position. Maintaining a level of transparency will have far-reaching effects on morale, so it’s well worth the added effort.

Hold Regular Meetings and Check-Ins

Sometimes daily tasks can become a bit monotonous. If your team doesn’t feel like they’re working towards a goal, the repetition can quickly affect morale. For this reason, it’s important to set clear goals. However, these goals also need to be actionable and reasonable, otherwise they can lead to employee burnout and even more issues with productivity. Realistic goals will provide motivation and help employees feel like they have a meaningful impact on the overall success of the organization.

Once you have goals in place, make sure you’re setting regular meetings to check in on progress. These can include one-on-one meetings with direct supervisors, quarterly progress reports and more as necessary. Just be careful to make sure these meetings are productive rather than criticizing.

Provide Feedback and Recognition

In addition to regular meetings and check-ins, take the time to provide employees with positive feedback and recognition. When you take notice of those who are performing well, they feel seen and valued, which can help improve morale and their overall commitment to the organization’s success.

Avoid Micromanaging

Micromanaging can severely damage employee experience, as it makes your team feel like you don’t trust them. It’s suffocating and takes away an employee’s sense of ownership or responsibility. When your team feels like they are being babysat, it will inevitably lead to low morale. Plus, micromanaging is detrimental to your overall organizational efficiency, as it results in two people doing a one-person task.

Instead, trust your employees. You hired them for a reason, so unless something happens that may warrant closer management, try to avoid micromanaging. Instead, stick to the feedback schedules mentioned in the bullet point above.

Promote a Positive Work-Life Balance

One of the most effective ways to avoid low morale at work is to promote a positive work-life balance. When employees are hyper focused on work and don’t have enough time to unwind and enjoy their personal lives, it has far-reaching effects. The most obvious sign of low morale related to a poor work-life balance is burnout. Employees may have difficulty concentrating, take up unhealthy habits and express little to no engagement while in the workplace.

Luckily, there are several ways you can promote a strong work-life balance without hindering your short- or long-term goals. Try to encourage breaks and time off, offer wellness initiatives and consider a change in overall office structure.

Offer Flexibility in the Workplace

Your employees have lives outside of work. When you provide your team members with a degree of flexibility in the workplace, you can help support employee experience and boost overall morale. While not all employees can do their jobs outside of nine to five, some tasks may be able to be completed in the evening or maybe a few days can be managed from home. Consider your industry, your team and the best options for flexible work environments for your needs.

Support Mental Health and Wellness

Mental health used to be a taboo subject in the workplace, but times have changed. Now, mental health and wellness is seen as an increasingly important aspect of overall wellbeing and should be built into your business. Show your employees that you care about their needs by offering support for mental health. This could be done through mental health days, flexible arrangements or providing access to resources and information.

Foster an Inclusive Culture

Your company culture will also play a significant role on overall experience and workplace morale. Regardless of what industry you’re in, your company culture should be inclusive of everyone. Your managers should be leading by example and be held to a higher standard than the rest of the workforce.

Peer-to-peer relationships are another important part of overall morale in the workplace. Your team should feel connected to each other, even if that relationship is confined to business hours. An inclusive culture that supports social interactions is a great way to achieve this while enhancing overall employee experience and general morale. These meaningful connections can help negate feelings of loneliness or isolation and further solidify your company culture. Try to have managers encourage social interactions or hold weekly or monthly events for individuals to step away from work and socialize.

There are several ways you can improve morale in the workplace, but it’s important that you understand how to identify its cause in the first place. Remember, at the end of the day, the best way to improve employee morale is to treat employees well. Learn more about how TriNet can help support your journey towards stronger workplace experience today.

This communication is for informational purposes only, is not legal, tax or accounting advice, and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.

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