Running a business requires business owners to buckle down and focus in on numerous factors, each one having its own pivotal role to play and demanding attention. However, an important facet of any given business that often goes under appreciated is the workers. More specifically, employee morale has a profound effect on the productivity of workers and, therefore, of the company as a whole. This is a relatively new talking point among business owners, however, and the tradition of using a tough love approach to management leaves business owners without the tools, or even the language, to prioritize employee morale within their management strategies. Here’s what you need to know in order to boost morale and productivity for your company.
Safety is a continual concern for workers and management alike. For employees to bring their A game, they have to be free of potential safety concerns, or as close as possible. Otherwise, they will find themselves dwelling on potential hazards to the detriment of their performance. These risks can be difficult to fully wrap your mind around at the best of times, because distance from the problem generally makes the problem more esoteric. However, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic presents new safety concerns on top of that. New problems require new solutions, and there are ample proven methods of keeping all parties significantly safer from the potential for coronavirus infection. For example, kiosk wireless solutions and self checkout can eliminate unnecessary contact between customers and employees in a retail setting, although this introduces yet another thing that will need to be decontaminated in between uses. Where it introduces more work, it nonetheless alleviates safety risks and can improve morale.
On a similar note, there is a lot of anxiety surrounding medical leave for employees. Consider that an employee that needs to miss work for medical reasons is already having a bad time, but stressing about the ramifications of missing work makes matters considerably worse. The problem is so severe that a sick employee can put others at risk because they simply can’t afford to miss work or, worse, because their employer refused to allow medical leave of any kind. Offering your staff paid medical leave is a great way to combat this problem, because it gives under the weather workers room to breathe when they fall ill or get injured. This means that they won’t be bringing an illness into the office and putting your whole staff at risk, but they also won’t be living with the stress of missing out on vital wages when they’re already down on their luck.
Medical leave isn’t the only way that time off work needs to be restructured for the sake of employee morale, however. Recent studies show pretty reliably that the traditional 40 hour work week is bad for employees and, therefore, for the productivity of businesses. However, phasing it out completely will take a lengthy transition period, because 40 hour work weeks and 8 hour shifts are deeply entrenched in modern commerce. A short term solution to this problem is providing employees additional opportunities to take some time off. It’s long been standard practice for some professions to offer paid vacation to workers, and it’s worth mentioning that these have historically been jobs that are also higher paying to begin with. Paid vacation time should be a benefit for workers of all stripes, perhaps even especially those working for minimum wage who can’t afford to spend money on a vacation or to take the requisite time off work.
Paid vacation days don’t even have to be presented in one lump sum, and a viable alternative is offering vacation days to employees gradually, based on the amount of time they’ve worked. This gives your employees control over the size and shape of their vacations. For example, they can go with the traditional method of using their vacation days all at once to take a trip or spend time with their families during the Summer, but they can also use a day here and a day there as they feel the need to do so. The same principle applies to scheduling. As mentioned above, the 40 hour work week is a detriment to morale and productivity, but even within it, there are opportunities to improve morale. You can do this by offering employees the opportunity to create a schedule that works best for them. This can mean five 8 hours shifts, as per usual, but it can also take the form of 3 and a half 12 hour shifts. Essentially, giving your employees the shifts that help them maintain their momentum and energy at work while also addressing work life balance will transform your workforce practically overnight.
The tough love style of management mentioned above has created numerous barriers to good employee morale, but perhaps the most insidious is the legacy of it. The expectations that workers tend to have about their superiors at work will color the working environment, even when a given employer is actively taking the necessary steps to improve morale. A crucial way to improve morale is, therefore, to create an atmosphere of open and honest communication and, perhaps more importantly, to make communication policies as clear as possible. You as an employer need to be open to discussions with your workers that don’t feel like interrogations, but you also need to make employees feel like they can come to you with any concerns they might have. This has the additional benefit of directly improving performance, because it means that confusion about certain policies or tasks will be asked. Ordinarily, there is a chance that employees won’t want to risk the trouble that can come with not being fully aware of their responsibilities because of those aforementioned expectations.
In addition to making your staff feel welcome around the office, it can be extremely helpful to make your employees feel valuable. A common problem with modern labor is that workers often don’t get to relish in their successes, and this is largely due to the fact that the effect of their work can often be invisible. Take, for instance, factory workers who spend 8 hours a day assembling products that are then shipped off to distributors and, eventually, retailers before the customer gets their hands on them. This means that the practical application of their labor is hidden from them and, with it, the satisfaction that can come from creating something and selling it directly to a customer. This can result in a detrimental disconnect from the job at hand. However, this problem can be addressed simply by celebrating the performance of your workers. This can work on two fronts. First of all, it gives your workers an understanding of the real world value of their labor, and this is incredibly beneficial to workers who can often feel like their work has no value. In addition, sharing the company wide performance statistics of all employees, you can motivate workers that are lagging behind to pick up the pace. This kind of motivation is also largely absent for workers who never get to see the end results of their labor and get paid by the hour, because it can seem like working less is the right choice in those situations.
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