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Employee Motivation

50 Productive Ways to Boost Employee Morale [Webinar Recap]

According to a recent survey by Namely, the current top concern of HR professionals is employee morale. It’s understandable why, as many companies are struggling to keep employees' spirits up during this difficult time. To address this issue, we teamed up with Namely to host a webinar covering the top ways to boost employee morale during COVID-19. Our panelists included: 

  • Amy Roy, Chief People Officer, Namely
  • Chris Good, People Leader and Creative Director, One Workplace
  • Shannon Ferguson, our very own Head of People here at Blueboard

These experts shared their favorite ideas to lift the spirits of their workforce, which we summarized below. We were also excited to see that our attendees flooded our live chat with great tips, so you’ll see ideas for building employee morale from the audience baked into our recommendations as well.! For more HR webinars, continue to stay in touch via our Resources page.


Our new hierarchy of needs during COVID-19

Before we dive into the actual tactics, we first need to understand how our hierarchy of needs has changed in response to the pandemic. This is based off of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory, which is usually represented as a pyramid that begins with basic human needs (food, water, rest) and grows through additional needs like security, healthy relationships, feelings of accomplishment, and ultimately self-actualization.

To help visualize the changes, we reframed the way we need to think about the basic physiological and psychological needs of our employees, within the context of COVID-19. 


Chris was the inspiration behind this, he writes in more detail on this subject of employee morale and the reinvisioned hierarchy of needs here on the One Workplace blog.

In the following sections, we’ll break down the five levels and share ideas to boost employee morale for each one - starting with the most basic needs that address health and wellness. 

Level 1: Health and wellness

Physiological and psychological health is the foundation of any person’s well-being and morale. As employers, taking the time to tend to this shows that we truly care about and value employees. To demonstrate this support, our panelists recommended talking openly about physical and mental health on your teams, expanding your existing wellness programs, and over-delivering on health planning as you consider the return to work. 

Here’s how our panelists and attendees are addressing the health and wellness needs of their teams: 

At Blueboard: 

  • Mental health resources and PTO for mental health
  • Fitness classes led by Blueboarders
  • Wellness-focused conversations in All-Hands and team meetings

At Namely:

  • Regular online yoga and meditation classes
  • Stress reduction, work from home, and parenting during pandemic trainings

At One Workplace:

  • Ergonomic work from home settings
  • Flexible scheduling

From our attendees: 

  • Erica: “We have one day where we don't have meetings - No Meetings Wednesdays.” 
  • Rachel: “My company actually sells online training and we have a free COVID-19 course right now - to teach employees how to prevent the spread.

Level 2: Safety and security

When our teams are struggling with fear and uncertainty their psychological state suffers. People want to know that their organizations are actively thinking about a clear path forward that keeps them safe, productive, and connected. To reassure your employees and build morale, make sure to establish a regular cadence of communication, engage key stakeholders, and think about ways to reduce infection transmission when people return to the office. 

Here’s how our panelists and attendees are addressing the safety and security needs of their teams: 

At Namely: 

  • Using Slido to address employee questions as they arise and addressing broadly in All-Hands meetings
  • Weekly written updates shared on Namely newsfeed
  • Employee Assistance Program

At One Workplace: 

  • Consistent and frequent messaging
  • Workplace sensors and reservation systems to guide cleaning and provide confidence

At Blueboard:

  • Business data transparency
  • Ask Me Anything (AMA) with leadership each week

From our attendees: 

  • Amanda: “I work for a financial institution and the headquarters office that housed about 140 employees, is closed currently. Most, if not all, of those teammates are WFH. We are working on a Return to Office plan to roll out in phases with the ability to roll back when there is a surge again. We are focusing on being flexible with the comfort level of our teammates as well as the local guidelines for reopening. Of course, we have a number of teammates with young children as well, and so school openings will be a major factor for us to consider.
  • Tyler: “We are keeping the mindset that "one size does not fit all" when returning to work, especially since COVID has impacted individuals in different ways. With that in mind, when individuals are not feeling comfortable returning to work, especially our administrative support, we are taking the time to understand why they do not feel comfortable returning to work and thinking through creative solutions (job sharing, varying hours, task that can be done at home, etc.)
  • Cheryl: “We will open when allowed, but will allow flexibility through the summer as schools/camps are closed.

Level 3: Belonging and connectedness

As humans, we crave propinquity - our natural tendency to develop deep human relationships. We need to adapt how we replicate physical proximity to each other, the frequency and quality of our interactions, and how we celebrate both our affinities and differences that exist to keep employee morale high. To do this, our panelists had a few suggestions, such as: taking advantage of virtual experiences, bringing the employee experience to your team, exploring experiential rewards and recognition, creating affinity teams, and rethinking your workplace.

Here’s how our panelists and attendees are addressing the belonging and connectedness needs of their teams: 

At One Workplace:

  • Spot recognition programs to recognize and celebrate those going above and beyond and living their company values. This program is powered with love by our team here at Blueboard :) 
  • Support collaboration, focus, and rejuvenation in the workplace
  • Spotify DJ for a day

At Blueboard:

  • Replicating our cultural fabric at home - team gatherings, learning together, employee-led activities like dumpling making classes
  • Public recognition and celebration via Slack, as well as with surprises in the mail

At Namely: 

  • #sanity-check channel on Slack
  • Virtual book club
  • Daily birthday and anniversary updates

Our attendees: 

  • Jeffrey: “We sent pizza to all staff for an all staff virtual meeting. Very well received.
  • Deneen: “My organization created a cookbook and shared it out. There are also crafting hours scheduled!
  • Kim: “We started a Care Package Roulette program where random employees are selected each week to ‘win’ a fun care package.
  • Julia: “Our CEO hosts a Cook-tail every other week with her wife who is a chef. Our CEO does the cocktail that pairs well with the meal being prepared - super fun!
  • Victoria: “We did a virtual scavenger hunt event that people liked a lot- it was virtual meeting and people were broken up into teams, but they had to find items in their houses. There were also things to keep teams interacting during this, like team selfies, team costumes, figuring out who has the most of certain items on a team plus extra points to team with the highest overall.
  • Julayne: “We started a #social Slack channel and encouraged everyone to share photos. It’s fun to see puppy and bunny photos since pets don’t usually come to our physical office.

Level 4: Confidence and contribution 

As we build confidence in our health, safety, and relationships, our own individual contributions will begin to feel meaningful and impactful again. Our collective self-esteem as organizations and as a society will reinforce our behaviors and improve our work. To achieve this, employers need to enable their teams to align with their purpose, share their success, and take personal responsibility.

Here’s how our panelists and attendees are addressing the confidence and contribution needs of their teams: 

At One Workplace: 

  • Aligning mission and values into pre-existing initiatives
  • “Bravo” Awards

At Blueboard:

  • Rethinking OKRs - pod groups and special projects
  • Lift Up - send notes of appreciation to those on your team going above and beyond

At Namely:

  • Living our “Give” value through helping our communities, donating food and snacks from the office to local food banks
  • Peer-to-peer feedback and appreciation on Namely’s social newsfeed

Our attendees: 

  • Chris: “Tell stories!
  • Carrie: “We do "What Made My Week?" during our weekly all-staff meetings to hear about what's going on in people’s lives.
  • Meredith: “We have started “Humans of Modus” where we asked everyone some really fun questions in a Google Form. Then, we drop their answers into an email with their photo so that everyone has 1) a chance to be “in the spotlight”, and 2) a chance to learn some fun facts about our team on their own time. We’re archiving the spotlights so that we can have a library for onboarding employees to peruse. We asked questions like: what would you name your autobiography? What is your favorite company value, and why?

Level 5: Inspiration and transformation 

Our circumstances right now mean many people are reflecting on their wants, needs, and goals. As we consider what self actualization may look like, we spot opportunities for positive growth and change. It’s motivating to have a goal and to put work into achieving it, and even better to share the inspiration and transformation process with others. To encourage this, our panelists suggest creating opportunities for new leaders to emerge, building space for mentorship, returning to your values, and providing resources to model growth. 

Here’s how our panelists and attendees are addressing the inspiration and transformation needs of their teams: 

At Blueboard:

  • Mentoring program for developing leaders
  • Unlocking L&D budget, even while keeping costs controlled
  • Reinforcing our values through new business initiatives

At One Workplace:

  • Founder stories/fireside chats
  • Internal innovation challenges

At Namely:

  • Opening the circle for more thoughts on how we build our future
  • Reverse mentor program

Our attendees: 

  • Heather: “We set up 2x/week inside "TED talks." Employees talk for 30 mins during our company-wide lunch break about something they care about. It’s a mixed bag of how-to's, travel highlights, culture spotlights, science of stress, meditation, etc. We have them scheduled already through the summer.

Even during these difficult times, there are ways to keep your employees feeling energized and motivated. Simply keep our reframed hierarchy of needs in mind, and you’ll find that your workforce will respond positively to your efforts. If you want to learn how experiential rewards and recognition can help boost morale at your company, connect with our team here.

Stay tuned for more valuable webinars and upcoming events here on our Resources page - stay well, and we can’t wait to see you again online.

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