5 Unorthodox Ways to Build Morale in the Office

See also: Motivation Skills

Even with just a few years of experience in the corporate world, most office-based employees will have already witnessed the difference between a bright, enthusiastic team and one where the majority seem bored, worried or worse!

Nevertheless, productivity remains a priority for managers at all levels because people are there to get things done when it comes down to it.

Boosting morale is not always easy, and it depends on the individual components of the team. The weak link could be a specific grievance of an individual which has permeated their colleagues and brought the mood down. Solve that, and morale improves immediately. But, of course, problems can run much deeper than this and may require a more concerted effort to overcome.

There are plenty of tried and tested morale boosting techniques out there, and they remain as valid today as they have been for decades. However, doing things by the book is not always the best solution, and some employees respond better to actions that surprise them or break with convention. Here, we explore five great ways to pick up the mood of a team, and you don’t even have to be in charge for all of them!

1. Encourage a Long-Term Non-Work Goal for the Whole Team

This technique works for managers and senior staff, but often works best when suggested and implemented by someone from within the team. In some cases, they have a better perspective of what really makes their colleagues tick, and a sense of fulfilment is crucial to success.

Suppose multiple team members demonstrate an interest in something that involves personal development, a specific goal or anything else along those lines. In that case, it becomes an excellent candidate for a team-wide effort. It can even build towards a more conventional morale booster, like a team-building exercise away from the office. In offices where everyone is reasonably physically fit, it could even lead to running a marathon as a team!

If that is too rigorous, there are plenty of alternatives. For example, everyone could commit to a certain number of hours spent volunteering each month, perhaps with a leaderboard for those that go above and beyond.

These motivational efforts thrive on friendly competition and accountability between team members, so anything that fits those criteria is an excellent opportunity.

2. Promote Healthy Competition Through Games

Outside of game development studios, the idea of playing games on company time is alien to far too many managers. However, a structured, team-based approach can do wonders for morale.

The easiest way to do this is often to use the technology already available within an office. For example, there might not be room for five-a-side football, but there is usually a computer each, and they’re often networked together. This provides numerous opportunities to boost morale and let off steam.

At the most basic level, team members could have a few minutes each day to complete a game of Spider Solitaire Challenge in as few moves as possible. In other instances, we have seen entire tournaments on big, networked games like Call of Duty – if the hardware is up to it!

Half of all people in the UK play video games, and the average age of gamers is 36. If your office fits the profile, missing the opportunity to deploy a passion within the office could mean sacrificing an easy morale win!

3. Eliminate the Concept of Asking Permission

Office workplaces have evolved beyond the idea of everyone doing as they are told at all times. There are few better ways to make someone feel valued than to give them a degree of responsibility, even if it varies depending on their role and experience.

There will have to be boundaries – there is no room for the employee that wants to run an experiment involving water and the email server. However, when given automatic permission to push the boundaries and try something new within their role, many employees will thrive.

They won’t necessarily always succeed, but the experience of failure provides ongoing personal development. In addition, the confidence in employees to fail and, more importantly, to succeed can open up new possibilities for them as an employee, you as a manager and potentially for the entire business.

4. Adopt a Hardline Stance on Breaks – Unconventionally

Breaking with tradition once again, one of the best ways to inspire employees in an unorthodox manner is to do the opposite of what they expect. To some employees, breaks are considered optional or even an opportunity to put in more work than they need. If you have morale in mind, enforce breaks in a way that actively encourages the team to take time for themselves.

This does require monitoring, and it is vital to ensure that those who already take their complete breaks regularly do not interpret it as an opportunity to cross the line.

It goes without saying that office-based employees cannot be expected to perform at their full potential for eight or nine straight hours without the opportunity for a rest. An expectation for them to do so might be the source of discontent that leads to low morale. Even if that is not the case, an employee empowered to manage their own time will feel like more than just part of the team and an essential cog in the overall machine.

5. Take the Lead on Work-Life Balance

The drive to get away from living to work and getting closer to merely working to live is increasing in popularity, particularly among younger staff members. Most people still want a job they can enjoy and thrive in but are less concerned about roles that have to define them.

There will always be some team members who would rather be at work than anywhere else, and they are to be treasured. However, there is no better person to prove that there is life beyond those four walls than the individual in charge.

A favourite option is to go one step further than the previous tip to empower employees to manage their time. Modern, successful managers have no interest in the 9 to 5 and fixed lunch breaks. They have come around to the idea that a productive day should be based on results, not on time spent achieving them.

An often-overlooked element of staff morale is their speed. Give two people an identical task, and there is a better chance of a significant disparity in completion times than identical ones. It is easy for this to have an impact on morale and in both directions. Those that get things done quickly may feel a need to waste their time, believe they are underutilised or make an effort to waste time, causing days to drag. Conversely, those perceived as being slower may feel stressed and under the microscope.

Instruct employees on what must be done, and encourage them to deploy their time as they see fit. Encourage time coming up with new ideas and tasks and never be afraid of an employee going above and beyond what you have asked for as long as their core role is fulfilled.

Furthermore, do not be the kind of manager who believes that they are nowhere if an employee is not at their desk. Making each individual accountable for their own time means trusting them to use that time wisely. If that means turning a blind eye to an employee that decides to leave the office and take a walk to clear their head shortly after arriving, so be it. Ten minutes outside the office could be the difference between the remaining hours in the day being productive and wasted.

Some of the best books and teachings on leadership and management have been around for decades. For the most part, they remain just as valid today as ever. However, managers should be willing to break with convention, potentially even going in a completely different direction where necessary. No management statement is absolute, and nobody knows a team better than a manager. What might have some reeling in shock could be just the jolt your office needs for a better atmosphere than ever before!

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About the Author

James Sheridan writes extensively on management and leadership, constantly seeking to deploy new ideas and techniques that may be considered unusual but provide real-world results in the evolving office.