Business Insight: Make morale a priority, regardless of times

By Dawn House

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: December 28, 2012 09:34PM
Updated: April 8, 2013 11:34PM
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Rick Westbrook. Courtesy image

Rick Westbrook, Salt Lake City branch manager for the staffing and consulting firm Robert Half International, says morale has been slow to recover from the Great Recession, but that there are remedies.

How’s morale?

At many companies, employee morale took a big hit during the recession and, like the economy overall, has been slow to bounce back. Layoffs, hiring freezes and pay reductions combined with increased workloads have left many workers feeling unsettled. Periods of economic uncertainty can spur anxiety, which can negatively impact morale, as well as productivity. As we come out of the recession, the biggest takeaway for employers is to make morale and employee motivation a continual priority. Organizations need to monitor staff engagement levels, particularly as business conditions change or new structural changes are put into place. If not, they run the risk of losing their top performers to other opportunities.

How can we help ourselves?

As expectations and pressure in the workplace continue to rise, it’s easy for employees to feel burned out. Those starting to feel overwhelmed and uninspired may want to consider taking matters into their own hands. Here are some tips to help employees combat job stress:

Take a break •Just a few minutes of down time each hour can help you recharge and work more productively.

Take things step by step • Consider your approach in tackling large projects. You’ll feel less overwhelmed if you focus on one manageable piece at a time.

Exercise • This is the best way to manage stress. Find something that you enjoy and try to fit it into your schedule two or three times a week.

Ask for help • Rely on others when you need it, and look for opportunities to return the favor.

What can we do to boost the spirits of our colleagues?

Low morale not only negatively affects an organization’s bottom line, but it can drain your productivity and job satisfaction. When you notice a coworker has been disengaged and less productive, you don’t have to wait for management to step in. Try these simple actions. Invite your co-worker out to lunch. Volunteer to help coworkers who are overwhelmed. Maintain your sense of humor. Be quick with a smile and friendly conversation. And praise others for their accomplishments.

Any low-cost morale boosters for leaders?

Open the channels of communication. Share updates with the team about how the company is doing, even if the information is not always positive. Balance the financial and sales news with information about the company’s goals and upcoming plans. In addition to holding formal meetings, be sure to let them know that you are available on an informal basis if they have questions or concerns. Give thanks. One of the most powerful morale boosters is a show of appreciation. Although you may not be able to show your thanks monetarily, you can still voice your appreciation. Say ‘thank you’ to employees for jobs well done. Also, build camaraderie and community. The more people enjoy working together, the higher their morale. Foster team unity by creating an environment of collaboration and cooperation rather than competition. Another way to build cohesion and goodwill is to publicly recognize milestones like anniversaries, birthdays, weddings or other events.

Rick Westbrook, executive