5 Steps to Improve Morale in Your Workplace

Employee Morale

Complaining about one’s job is nothing new; in fact, it’s an activity most employees engage in from time to time, some more often than others. According to a recent Gallup poll, more than two-thirds of employees consider themselves to be disengaged or unhappy with their work and their workplace, a number that’s remained fairly steady for the past several years. The level of worker dissatisfaction has become so much a part of the “background noise” of doing business, many companies tend to overlook the complaints or at least to do very little to improve morale – and that could be costing them a lot in terms of productivity, worker turnover and overall revenue.

Workplace Morale and the Bottom Line

The link between worker dissatisfaction and health is pretty clear-cut: Being dissatisfied and unhappy increases stress levels, and multiple studies have warned of the link between stress and serious acute and chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and depression. In fact, unhappy workers are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression as workers who are happy and satisfied with their jobs, and they also have twice as many unhealthy days as engaged and satisfied employees. Increased stress levels also weaken the immune system, making workers more likely to become ill with colds, flu and other illnesses. And, workers who are unhappy or disengaged are also more likely to become injured on the job, contributing to billions of dollars in worker’s compensation claims (and billions of dollars in lost productivity) every year.

On the other hand, the American Psychological Society website says employees who are satisfied with their jobs tend to have much better general health and wellness and a much rosier outlook on their lives as a whole. For businesses, happier workers are also more productive; in fact, when comparing lost productivity costs between engaged employees and unhappy workers, the APA report says the average productivity losses are about $840 annually for a happy employee versus a whopping $28,000+ per year in productivity losses for an unhappy worker. That’s just for one unhappy employee; obviously, the more unhappy workers you have, the higher your overall productivity losses will be.

Investing in Worker Satisfaction

Businesses that take the time and effort to improve worker morale and job satisfaction can reap significant benefits; in fact, according to Gallup, disengaged workers “offer perhaps the greatest untapped opportunity for businesses to improve their performance and profitability.” But what’s the best way to increase engagement? Fortunately, it’s not as difficult (or costly) as it sounds.

  1. Use employee surveys to determine areas that need improvement. Make sure the surveys are designed to ask about relevant areas that can be improved with actionable steps rather than asking about abstract ideas.
  2. Host regular staff meetings to keep workers engaged. Solicit ideas for improvement while also providing a “safe” platform for airing concerns.
  3. Make management more accessible. One recent study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found workers who felt bullied on the job were 82% more likely to have health issues including depression. People experiencing problems with work-life balance and those worried about losing their jobs also were more likely to report health problems. Making management accessible enables workers to discuss these issues and work toward solutions early on; managers must also be engaged and compassionate toward workers’ concerns in order to be perceived as “partners” in workplace solutions rather than potential adversaries.
  4. Give employees some control. Let employees play an active role in creating their own career development plans, either during the annual review process or at different times throughout the revenue cycle. Offering workers the chance to use their strengths and set goals to improve their performance can have significant impact on engagement and morale as well as an impact on overall productivity.
  5. Act on feedback. Improving morale and engagement is a two-way street. When employees make the time and effort to provide thoughtful feedback or suggestions, whether through small group meetings or via workplace surveys, it’s important to act on suggestions whenever possible to show workers their input is valued. Even when immediate action can’t be taken, it’s still important for employees to know their voices have been heard and management is actively listening to their concerns. Without this critical component, the exercise of providing feedback will quickly be perceived as no more than “busy work” and morale will decline.

For many businesses, worker morale is a nebulous and highly enigmatic metric that can be difficult to improve. But by applying a few practical steps to gain better insight into the real underpinnings of complaints and dissatisfaction, the process of improving engagement can be greatly demystified for a happier workforce and significantly improved productivity. For more information about the effects of worker morale on employee health and productivity – and for ideas on how to improve and support the emotional health of workers – the American Psychological Association website offers a comprehensive list of resources that can help businesses of all sizes identify and understand the unique needs of their own workforce, empowering business leadership to implement changes for a happier, healthier workplace.