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According to Gallup’s latest State of the American Workplace Report, 70 percent of employees feel disenchanted at work, and that lack of engagement is costing businesses up to $550 billion a year. Even if offering larger perks isn’t in the budget, there are plenty of low- to no-cost things every business can do to help turn the collective company frown upside down. Here are a few easy ways to get started.
1. Give credit where it’s due
This one’s pretty easy: Simply say thank you for a job well done. Give recognition during staff meetings, email positive feedback to higher-ups (and cc the employee you’re praising), or even pen a handwritten note. Companies with some kind of recognition program in place reported 23 percent less turnover than companies without recognition programs, as reported by the Society of Human Resources Management.
2. Incentivize the team with small perks
Find small ways to make the office more fun. Stock a snack drawer and initiate something like pizza Fridays. Let employees start an hour later on Mondays so they can get everything at home in order after the weekend. Set up remote access and give employees occasional opportunities to work from home. Harvard Business Review notes that employees who are given the ability to work from home are happier and 13 percent more productive.
3. Bring some life (and light) to the office
A study by the American Psychological Association shows that workers perform better when there are plants around. Dr. Chris Knight says that plants get employees psychologically engaged, making them happier and better able to perform. He says changes in natural light have the same result, and an article in Psychology Today also links natural light to improved vitality in the workplace, noting that windowless environments have negative effects on circadian rhythms.
4. Organize workplace outings
Organizational psychologist William A. Kahn says that employees who are actively involved are happier and produce more than those who feel disconnected or alienated. Whether it’s a team-building exercise that includes collaborative games and problem solving or volunteer opportunities like Habitat for Humanity, the chance to connect with colleagues in different ways, coupled with a change of scenery, goes a long way toward boosting office morale.
5. Require breaks and time off from work
Studies show that short breaks — walking around the block or going to get lunch — allow employees to disengage and then reengage, boosting productivity by getting blood flowing and giving people time to check personal items off their to-do lists. Longer breaks (aka vacations) help employees mentally refuel, therefore enhancing job performance. Clinical psychologist Francine Lederer says that vacation deprivation can lead to increased mistakes in someone’s work as well as resentment toward leadership, and notes that taking a vacation can have profound impacts on one’s mental health.
6. Hear them out
James Campbell Quick, Ph.D., a professor of organizational behavior and leadership at the University of Texas at Arlington, says that it’s important for companies to find a way to give their employees a voice. Whether that means hosting regular staff meetings, holding one-on-one sessions with team members, or issuing annual surveys, soliciting continuous feedback and hearing employees out does wonders to make them feel valued. Some businesses even make sure top management is accessible and approachable, oftentimes having executives circle the floor and engage with employees at all levels across the company.