Working remotely can be tiresome, distracting and difficult to embrace for a hundred reasons, particularly when you're accustomed to being surrounded by teammates every day, encouraged by the buzz of the office or pumped up by your busy commute.
On the contrary, long workdays spent at home can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnect, or simply increase stress under the pressure of juggling daily tasks and work. Both of which often leads to a sharp decline in staff morale.
What is morale?
In short, it is a fundamental driver for productivity and engagement. Without it, output drops, operation costs increase, and staff turnover racks up. When morale is high, a company will be better prepared to reach its full potential. After all, it's the people of an organization that drives success.
Productivity sentiments when working from home
According to Qualtrics, working from home hasn't produced the most effective and productive workforce. In fact, over 30% reported feeling less productive to some extent.
When staff are working remotely, businesses cannot rely on sunny weather, staff drinks and pay increases to keep morale high. Rather, it should be nurtured to ensure the entire team still feels a deep sense of the company culture in the absence of the office environment and while working from their homes. With that said, how can businesses, managers, and remote staff themselves work toward nurturing morale to keep spirits high and productivity higher?
1. Stay connected.
The simplest but most effective way to boost morale while working from home is to communicate and have regular check-ins between staff and managers. Good communication is incremental to increasing morale because it directly affects behavior and staff performance. Staying connected removes the risk of not receiving adequate information to complete a task. Further, it generates a sense of accountability, which compels employees to improve their workflow.
It is assumed that when employers feel they are performing well – granted, they have access to instant and constant communication with their superiors – they will feel better about their work. This boost in morale will likely lead to better outcomes.
2. Work toward goals.
Monotonous tasks and immeasurable outcomes are often the two culprits behind the lack of morale and willingness to perform well while working remotely. Conversely, when common goals are laid out and each member of the team understands the role they must play to reach the goal, their active participation has more value. This sense of meaning and contribution helps to directly improve morale.
Having common goals gives both managers and staff something to work toward together, improving morale on both ends. It helps to increase trust between different levels of workers and reminds them of all of their purposes, even when they are working away from the office.
3. Recognition is key.
Not only do employees become highly engaged when formal recognition programs are put into place, but a company becomes more attractive to first-choice candidates too. The benefits of recognition can strengthen employee engagement, as well as the caliber of employees.
To recognize good performance is to encourage it. One of the most important ways to boost morale when working from home is to continuously support workers through the recognition of their efforts. It's a meaningful tool to demonstrate to employees that the company cares about the work they do and their well-being, even when they aren’t in the company building.
Seventy-eight percent of employees surveyed by Gallup said receiving recognition motivated them to do their jobs. And there are hundreds of ways for managers to demonstrate recognition, and for peer-to-peer recognition, too. Digital rewards and recognition platforms can help streamline the process of employee recognition, allowing for:
Quick and easy peer-to-peer "thank you's" and "good job's"
Monthly, quarterly and annual rewards programs
Ways for employees to share and celebrate their achievements
Enabling global recognition through multicurrency and multilingual options
4. Work hard, play hard.
Just as when working in the office or workplace all week, weekends and evenings have typically been reserved for enjoyable pastimes. Seeing friends and family, watching a movie, reading that book, going for a longer run – all are things we reward ourselves for after a long week of work. The prevalence of work-from-home jobs has made it more important than ever to make the most of our "out-of-work-hours."
Before you know it, it'll be Monday again, and you'll be back in your makeshift WFH office wondering where the weekend went. Without meaningful weekends and evenings, the weeks merge, and time can appear difficult to separate, leading to truly diminished morale.
5. Ask for and provide feedback.
Asking for and getting employee feedback is a top way to boost morale. It demonstrates that you're listening and that they will be heard. However, this is just the first step – it isn’t enough to just collect feedback, you'll need to act on it, too. And when it simply isn't feasible to act on feedback, it's just as important to morale to thank employees for their thoughts and suggestions.
In fact, studies have shown the importance of employee feedback cannot be understated and it works both ways. Only a third of 83% of employees who reported they want job development actually receive the feedback they need. There's a massive gap in this area showing that employees who don't receive feedback are 40% more likely to be disengaged.
6. Take meaningful and impactful breaks.
Just as making good and productive use of our free hours during the week, including weekends and evenings, our workday should be split up to allow time for meaningful activities. Taking breaks during the day is key to remaining productive, focused and in good spirits.
Having lunch at your desk to save time and finish tasks is counterintuitive. Studies show the importance of coming away from the computer screen during a lunch break can help replenish our mental capacity for when we return.
7. Join virtual support groups.
Today's online jobs climate has left no shortage of support from those who work from home, too. In fact, the effects of the global pandemic have forced 46.6% of the U.K.'s workforce into remote working. There is support to be found online, through friends and within your organization. Schedule virtual meetings or check-in on online forums for advice, discussions and anxiety relief.
8. Look after your body.
Feeling fit versus sluggish has a direct impact on our ability to remain in good spirits. Building morale may well be a mental endeavor, but strengthening our bodies is key to optimizing one's mental health. That's not to say working remotely means that we should be pumping weights and sticking to vigorous diets.
Rather, the effects of a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner, combined with a good dose of exercise – be it a walk, jog or some simple stay-at-home stretches – all contribute to building our immune systems, strengthening our bodies, and boosting morale.
Working from home in many ways provides us with the luxury of time and convenience. Using our would-be commuting hours to instead cook breakfast or go for a walk can prepare us for a productive day. In the same vein, lunch breaks can now provide plenty of time for some exercise and freshen-up.
9. Communicate company goals.
It's easy to disconnect and lose touch with your organization's core goals in the midst of a pandemic and drastic changes to the way we work. Communicating the company's goals and working toward common goals together raises morale and empowers remote work culture.
Employees have been found to invest themselves more deeply in the goal-setting process and are more likely to find meaning in their achievements when they are active participants in the goal-setting process. Morale increases when employees are brought in on goal-setting. This is particularly true of remote employees, since it helps to fill the void between their physical presence at home and the company.
10. Offer employee growth opportunities and incentives.
Working remotely can exacerbate feelings amongst employees that their careers are stagnating and that opportunities for growth and development are scarce. To keep morale high, organizations should focus on creating opportunities for employees to be learning and developing their skills.
Investing in career development will certainly provide high ROI for the company, boost morale for the individual leading to multiple efficiencies. This is perhaps more true of remote employees who desperately crave growth.
E-learning platforms and online courses to develop skills have taken off during the social-distancing period and resulting work-from-home trend. It allows employees to dip in and out of training sessions whenever it suits them, giving them something to work toward and look forward to. Morale is boosted both through learning new skills and by knowing that their employer values and invests in them.