Employee Motivation

51 Productive ways to boost employee morale at work

Employee morale—that is, employees’ attitudes about, satisfaction in, and outlook at work—is critical to your organization’s success. 

When morale is high, employees are excited to come to work and go the extra mile to hit their goals and objectives. As a result, highly engaged workforces are more profitable and experience less absenteeism and turnover than their less-engaged counterparts. 

Of course, keeping your employees' spirits up isn’t always easy—especially these days. From post-pandemic burnout to return-to-work stress and anxiety, there are many reasons why your employees may not be feeling their best. Fortunately, there are plenty of fun ways to boost morale at work. 

We teamed up with our partners at Namely and One Workplace to talk about how to boost morale at work. Experts shared their favorite ideas to boost morale at work and celebrate employee wellbeing, which you can find below. Members of the People leader community also shared some of their best tips with us, so you’ll see boosting morale in the workplace ideas from the audience baked into our recommendations.

Boosting employee morale within a new hierarchy of employee needs.

Before diving into the tactics, it’s important to understand how our hierarchy of needs has changed since the pandemic. 

Back in 2020, One Workplace Creative Director, Chris Good, reframed how we need to think about our employees' basic physiological and psychological needs in a post-COVID-19 work environment based on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory.

According to Maslow’s theory, there are five tiers of human needs. From bottom up, there are physiological needs (e.g., food, water), safety (e.g., job security), belongingness and love (e.g., friendship), esteem, and self-actualization. We must satisfy the basic needs at the bottom before attending to the conditions at the top.

Similar to our human needs, employee needs can also be organized in a similar hierarchy, starting with health and wellness and ending with inspiration and transformation.

Ways to boost employee morale COVID-19
COVID-19 (and beyond) hierarchy of needs per the One Workplace blog.

So how do these levels map to employee morale? Next, we break it down and share ideas to boost employee motivation and morale for each level—starting with the most basic ideas that address health and wellness.

Mapping the 5 levels of employee needs to employee morale ideas.

Level 1: Health and wellness.

Physiological and psychological health is the foundation of any person’s well-being and positive morale. Being able to meet these employee needs must be the baseline. Our experts recommend talking openly about physical and mental health on your teams, expanding your existing employee wellbeing programs, and over-delivering on health planning as you navigate new ways of working.

Here are 10 ideas to address your team’s health and wellness needs and boost employee morale: 

1. Pay your people competitively and equitably. This one may seem like common sense, but with inflation on the rise and the tech market slowing, it’s important to note that fair compensation is a must-have.

2. Mental health resources and PTO for mental health. A person’s mental health is just as important to their overall well-being as their physical health. Help employees take care of themselves by sharing educational resources, modeling workplace boundaries, and encouraging time away from work.

3. Employee-led fitness classes. Promote physical wellness and workplace connection by encouraging employee-led fitness classes. While we all know the physical benefits of exercise, a 2021 study found that exercising during the workday can help improve focus. Plus, when it’s employee-driven, there’s an added layer of connection and shared experience.

4. Wellness-focused conversations in All-Hands and team meetings. Walk the talk. One of the easiest ways to show your employees you care about their mental and physical well-being is to talk about wellness regularly and publicly. 

5. Regular online yoga and meditation classes. Mindfulness comes with many physical and psychological benefits, such as lowered stress, decreased depression, improved memory, and strengthened relationships.

6. Stress reduction, work from home, and parenting during pandemic trainings. Help your employees thrive, not just survive, in our ‘new normal’ work culture with educational sessions addressing current stressors. 

7. An ergonomic work-from-home setup. As you’ve probably experienced first-hand, working from your couch or kitchen table can wreak havoc on your body. Encourage employees to create an ergonomic workstation or, if possible, provide a stipend so they can upgrade their setups. 

8. Flexible scheduling. Allowing your employees to choose their work schedules can help promote better work-life balance and boost productivity

9. ‘No meetings’ days. If you aren’t asking all employees to return to the office, virtual calls will still be a part of their lives. Zoom fatigue is very real, but studies show that implementing meeting-free days can improve autonomy, communication, employee engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction.

10. Walking meetings. Another way to combat Zoom fatigue is to incorporate more walking meetings into your weekly schedules. Apps like Spot help distributed teams connect and collaborate, without feeling trapped to their desks.

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Level 2: Safety and security.

Living in a state of fear and uncertainty can greatly impact our psychological state—and there’s no shortage of fear and uncertainty these days. Your people need to know that their leaders are actively thinking about how to keep them safe, productive, and connected. 

To reassure your employees and boost positive morale, establish a regular cadence of communication, engage key stakeholders, and think about ways to reduce risk as people begin to gather in person again. 

Here are 10 ideas to help you address the safety and security needs of your teams: 

11. Encourage employee questions during All-Hands meetings. Slido allows people to ask questions anonymously and vote for the questions they like, encouraging your shyer employees to speak up and bring important topics to light.

12. Weekly written updates shared on an internal newsfeed. Sharing updates in public channels can help break down silos and foster more open communication. 

13. Employee Assistance Programs. These short-term, confidential counseling services can help employees manage personal difficulties that may be affecting their performance at work.

14. Consistent and frequent messaging. Frequent communication helps keep everyone in the loop and avoid costly errors, duplicated efforts, or unnecessary panic due to a lack of information.

15. Workplace sensors and reservation systems to guide cleaning and provide confidence. Office reservation systems help ensure every employee has a space to work comfortably and maintain a safe working distance while on-site.

16. Business data transparency. Share plans and results—whether they were successful or not. Leaders who can speak openly and honestly about the results of their company’s efforts gain trust and respect from their employees.

17. Recurring Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions with leadership. Holding regular Q&A sessions with leadership or having a Q&A section at the end of town hall meetings is a great way to make your staff feel heard. 

18. Create a return-to-work plan that’s mindful of your employees’ needs and preferences. Before making any critical decisions, take the time to hold space for your employees needs and wants, digest their feedback, and gain a sense of the most popular opinions and responses. 

19. With return-to-work, one size does not fit all. If some people don’t feel comfortable returning to work, think through creative solutions to meet the most employee needs, such as job sharing, flex hours, and hybrid work arrangements.  

20. Consider seasonal flex hours. For example, one community team member pointed out that their workplace offers increased flexibility during the summer when schools are closed.

Offering your people some level of flexible working can have a major positive impact on morale.

‍Level 3: Belonging and connectedness.

As humans, we crave connection. We have a natural tendency to develop deep human relationships. In a post-COVID world, we need to adapt how we replicate physical proximity to each other, the frequency and quality of our interactions, and how we celebrate our affinities and differences to boost employee morale and keep it high. 

Our experts had a few suggestions to do this: take advantage of virtual experiences, bring the employee experience to your team, explore experiential rewards and recognition, create affinity teams, and rethink your workplace.

Here are some ideas to help you address the belonging and connectedness needs of your teams: 

21. Support collaboration, focus, and rejuvenation in the workplace. For example, you could host virtual deep work or focus sessions over Zoom to give your team extra motivation and accountability to get work done.

22. Spotify DJ for a day. Have in-office and remote employees share their work playlists. Or follow remote web development company MarsBased’s lead and create a company-wide playlist. Each week, hybrid and remote employees are encouraged to add a song to a shared playlist that matches a weekly theme. 

23. Replicate cultural fabric wherever employees are (e.g., team gatherings, learning together, employee-led activities like dumpling-making classes). Remote workers can quickly feel isolated, unsupported, and disengaged, but offering a combination of in-person and virtual team-building activities can help them rekindle their passion and build deeper connections with their co-workers.

24. Public employee recognition and celebration via Slack and with surprises in the mail. Acknowledging a job well done can go a long way in helping your employees feel more connected. 

25. Support-based Slack channels. Productboard has a #talk-mental-health Slack channel where people can share their experiences with mental health conditions. They also have a Slack bot called Freud that allows employees to post to the channel anonymously. At Blueboard, we have employee resource groups and justice-related Slack channels that encourage people to share their full selves.

26. Book club (in-person or virtual). Participating in a book club can create a sense of belonging and help your employees get to know each other better. 

27. Daily birthday and anniversary updates. After the new job honeymoon effect wears off, recognizing important milestones can help show your people that you care about them and value their commitment. 

28. Food delivery for team meetings. Many food delivery services like Uber Eats and GrubHub offer bulk ordering options for organizations that want to treat their staff or cover the costs of meals for their team. 

29. Company cookbook and crafting hours. Think beyond the virtual happy hour for your hybrid teams and consider more creative team bonding events that reflect your unique company culture and ethos.

30. Care package roulette. One community member, Kim, shared that random employees are selected each week to ‘win’ a fun care package.

31. ‘Cook-tail’ party. Julia shared that their company’s CEO hosts a ‘Cook-tail party’ every other week with their wife. Their wife, a chef, prepares the meal, and the CEO creates a cocktail to go with it. 

32. Virtual scavenger hunt. Victoria shared that a virtual scavenger was a hit at their company. “It was a virtual meeting, and people were broken up into teams, but they had to find items in their houses,” they explained. “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 the team with the highest overall score.”

33. #social Slack channel. Attendee Julayne’s company has a #social Slack channel where everyone is encouraged to share photos of their life. “It’s fun to see puppy and bunny photos since pets don’t usually come to our physical office,” she says.

34. Values-based awards and recognition to encourage company culture-building behaviors. Employees feel an increased sense of belonging when they feel connected to their organization’s values and purpose. Values awards are a concrete way to bring your values to life and keep them top of mind for your employees.

35. Make space for celebration. Community member, Carrie, shared that their organization includes a "What Made My Week?" segment during their All-Hands meeting, where employees can share about what’s going on in their lives. 

36. Employee spotlights. Meredith shared that their company started a series based on the popular photoblog, Humans of New York. “We ask our people 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 into 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?”

An employee-led book club creates space for shared learning and exploration and can be a great morale booster!

Level 4: Confidence and contribution. 

Beyond health, safety, and relationship needs, there’s esteem or, in workplace terms, confidence and contribution. As collective self-esteem—at work and in society—grows, it reinforces our behaviors and improves our work. To achieve this, employers need to enable their teams to align with their purpose, share their success, and take personal responsibility.

Here are a few ideas to help you address your team’s confidence and contribution needs to strengthen employee morale: 

37. Show how initiatives map to your company’s mission and objectives. For example, if marketing is working on an ABM strategy, show how that work maps to a company-wide objective. That way, employees can see the part they play in the broader picture. 

38. “Bravo” Awards. Reward employees for a job well done in specific terms: Help them understand the specific behaviors and outcomes that led to positive impact. And celebrate them publicly (if that’s something they’re into).

39. Rethink OKRs (e.g., pod groups and special projects). OKRs are typically based on historical data, but it can be challenging to set reasonable targets or benchmarks during times of uncertainty. Instead, consider setting goals around principles instead of targets and refining your objectives and key results as you go. 

40. Encourage peer to peer employee appreciation. Use Blueboard’s free ecard sender to send notes of appreciation to those on your team who are going above and beyond. Appreciation doesn’t have to break the bank. A little kindness can change your employee’s whole day. 

41. Give back and invest in your community. Giving back shows employees they’re pouring their energy into a company that cares. Ninety percent of employees who work at companies with a strong sense of purpose say they’re more inspired, motivated, and loyal.

42. Public shout-outs in your internal messaging tool. Depending on the person, a public shout-out can feel way more impactful than a private DM. It can also have a powerful ripple effect, boosting motivation even among employees that aren’t being recognized.

43. Storytelling. Help employees connect to their broader impact through storytelling. For example, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has a “Heroes’ Corner” on their employee news site where they feature postal employees who have gone beyond the call of duty.

A screenshot of peer-to-peer recognition happening in a public slack channel.
At Blueboard, we have a public #shout-outs channel in Slack for peer-to-peer recognition.

Level 5: Inspiration and transformation.

A lot of people are (have been) reflecting on their wants, needs, and goals when it comes to work and life. As we consider what self-actualization could 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 it’s even better to share the inspiration and transformation process with others. 

To encourage this, our experts suggest creating opportunities for new leaders to emerge, building space for mentorship, returning to your values, and providing resources to model growth. Here are several employee morale ideas to meet inspiration and transformation needs of your teams: 

44. Mentoring program for developing leaders. Mentors can act as both teachers and role models, imparting valuable wisdom to management-track employees and serving as a source of inspiration. Plus, mentoring is a reciprocal process, with mentees teaching mentors as well.

45. Unlock the L&D budget If you want to have skilled and productive employees, you’ll need to invest in their learning. As we’ve seen, industries and technology can shift overnight, but training employees to adapt to these changes can make your company more resilient. 

46. Reinforce your values through new business initiatives. Company values foster belonging, confidence, and should be a source of inspiration. Grounding new business initiatives in your core values demonstrates intentional transformation. Start planning your company values awards program with this guide.

47. Founder stories and fireside chats. Compared to formal presentations, fireside chats and founder stories often feel like casual conversations, making them more relatable and engaging. 

48. Internal innovation challenges. Foster a workplace culture of innovation in your organization by bringing everyone together to solve an organizational challenge. 

49. Open the inner circle. Ideas can come from the most unexpected parts of your organization, so don’t limit strategic planning to the C-suite. Instead, look for opportunities to get everybody involved in building your organization’s future. 

50. Reverse mentor program. More junior employees may not be as experienced or have as much organizational knowledge as their more senior counterparts, but they can provide fresh perspectives and new ways of working. 

51. Inside "TED talks." Heather’s company hosts internal “TED talks” twice a week. Employees are encouraged to give a talk during the company-wide lunch break about something they care about. “It’s a mixed bag of how-to's, travel highlights, culture spotlights, the science of stress, meditation, etc.” they explain.

It’s not one-and-done: Strong morale in the workplace is the result of intentional, continuous action. 

As you can see, there are many different ways leaders can tackle the challenge of boosting employee morale, from hosting virtual scavenger hunts to coordinating company-wide innovation challenges. 

But before you start implementing these tactics in your organization, keep these final thoughts in mind. 

  • Work from the bottom up. Before you can start thinking about how to inspire and develop your team members, you need to make sure you meet their basic health and wellness needs.
  • Use your company values as a guide. Use morale-boosting initiatives to reinforce your company’s mission and make your core values real and actionable for your team members. 
  • Think big and small. Large-scale policies and programs (e.g., flexible scheduling, mentorship) and small-scale initiatives (e.g., social events, shout-outs) positively contribute to employee morale. See the big picture and the little details.

For more strategies to boost employee morale, grab your copy of our free ebook, HR’s Guide to Boosting Employee Morale today.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in May 2020 but has been updated with the most up-to-date tips!

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