With all that’s going on right now in the world, office morale may be down. A lot of people are uneasy with change and the potential changes to come. A lot of people have differences of opinions and, even if you do whatever you can to keep that from impacting the overall environment in your office, morale in your office may be taking a hit.
However, boosting office morale is not always on the top of the priority list for many business owners—and I’m here to tell you that it should be! How your employees feel each and every day they come into work can greatly impact your business, both negatively and positively, depending on how morale is at the office. When you take the time to figure out ways to keep office morale positive and optimistic, you will see the impact in your office’s efficiency, productivity, customer service, employee retention and even profitability.
In July of this year, I will celebrate my 13th anniversary working for my boss, attorney Philip Kavesh. Time certainly flies by quickly and, despite the way it may look, I promise that he didn’t hire me when I was 12. Over these 13 years working for Phil, I can tell you that he’s taken a number of steps to continue to boost morale and keep his employees happy. This is also probably the reason why he has attorney associates that have been with him for 12 and 14 years and paralegals that have been with him for 23 and 28 years!
Here are some tips for helping boost morale in your office.
Office Morale Boosting Tip #1: Make sure your office has a designated lunch room.
A lunch or break room is probably one of the easiest ways to build office morale. At one point, Phil’s law firm did not have a lunch or break room, which only encouraged or forced people to eat lunch off-site, often times separate or apart from one another, and to go out and buy lunch (with nowhere to refrigerate or heat up a lunch from home). When he moved into his current office, which he designed with a great deal of thought and deliberation, he had a lunch room which included a full-sized refrigerator, sink, dishwasher, toaster oven, microwave, drinking water dispenser and table enough for several members of the firm at one time. This encouraged people to bring in their lunch and eat together. During the lunch hour is where employees are able to gather together, talk about non-work related matters and develop closer interpersonal relationships. It also makes people more efficient during work hours, because they know that they have a designated time to really sit down and speak. Having moved into a separate office for The Ultimate Estate Planner, we initially did not have a lunch room. We have since created a lunch room where we can gather to eat and it really makes a huge difference.
Office Morale Boosting Tip #2: Re-evaluate your holiday hours and policies.
While I certainly understand the reasons why every business owner is looking at his or her bottom line and wants to make sure that the company is operating at full efficiency, giving employees valuable time off is another way to boost morale—which, as stated above, results in a higher level of efficiency when they are in the office. Just because you have someone sitting at a desk and physically present at the office, doesn’t mean that they’re really “showing up” to work. They may be fatigued, overworked, or stressed and the time you extend to them to take time off will be greatly appreciated and returned in kind to you in the form of happier, less stressed and more efficient workers. Here is a list of some of the vacation, holiday and sick time benefits that Phil extends to his employees:
- All major holidays (New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Day After Thanksgiving, Christmas Day)
- Half day on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve
- Floating holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday and President’s Day (i.e. you get to choose between these two holidays to take off).
- During the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, the firm will be opened on 3 days from 8:30am to 12:30pm. Employees that work are paid a full eight hours to come in during that time (incentivizing employees that may be local and want to cover the office to do so, but allowing other employees to take vacation and have coverage during the office to eliminate some of the “catch up” when they return).
- 10 days of vacation for starting employees, 15 days of vacation for 5-year employees, 20 days of vacation for 10-year employees.
- 6 days of sick pay each year, which, if unused, is paid out at the end of the year.
- Random “early” days (Wednesday before Thanksgiving, company holiday luncheon, day before Independence Day holiday).
Obviously, you may need to consider what rules and regulations you may have in your particular state about closing your office, holiday hours, sick hours, etc., but you get the idea about utilizing holidays and time off as a way to keep employees happier.
Office Morale Boosting Tip #3: Bring in lunch at least once a month.
Food plays a big theme in helping boost office morale. This is probably because as a society, we love to eat! If you think about every holiday and family get together is typically surrounded by food. So, another way to help boost office morale is to bring in lunch. You can do this on an entirely social level or you can do this accompanied with other firm or company meetings (e.g. monthly firm meeting, various departmental meetings, etc.). The best way to do this is to find a local food spot, get a menu, circulate the menu and place an order (preferably for delivery or for someone to go pick up). It is also nice to occasionally bring in other treats and goodies for your staff!
Office Morale Boosting Tip #4: Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, babies and weddings.
My employment at Phil’s law firm was my first full-time job coming out of college, so the firm’s way of doing things was my general understanding of how most offices work. One thing that the law firm always does is that it always celebrates employee’s birthdays, firm employment anniversaries, babies and weddings. At each monthly firm meeting, birthdays and anniversaries are acknowledged. On an employee’s birthday, a cake will be brought in especially for that employee. On major work employment anniversaries, flowers or other gifts may be given to employees. Company-wide baby and wedding showers are a common practice as well. It’s amazing to me how many offices don’t even think about or engage in these kinds of practices, but it happens. Finding these ways to make employees feel special and celebrate these kinds of moments in their work and personal life is a great way to make everyone feel good—even those that aren’t being celebrated on that particular occasion!
Office Morale Boosting Tip #5: Encourage potlucks and other team developing type of activities.
While never a requirement, the law firm also engages in a number of fun activities. We’ve done an annual Halloween potluck, where members of the firm will dress up in costume (we’ve even done some costume contests) and bring in a plate of food to be shared at lunchtime. Another event has been a St. Patrick’s Day themed potluck, where people may bring in traditional Irish and St. Patrick’s Day dishes. Phil will occasionally take the attorneys out for dinner, which is entirely social. The firm has done family picnics on the weekend and have engaged in outside office activities with one another. Again, this just helps develop the inter-office relationships among team members which will only play out to a happier, more cooperative and efficient group of people working for you in the office.
Office Morale Boosting Tip #6: Show your staff some gratitude for Thanksgiving.
At Thanksgiving, Phil will distribute $25 gift cards to a local grocery store chain to employees, knowing that most people will be preparing some kind of big Thanksgiving feast with their family. The office also brings in a Thanksgiving type buffet lunch the Monday before Thanksgiving for everyone to enjoy. Phil will typically give a touching speech at that luncheon, showing his team members gratitude for all of their hard work. The law firm also releases a monthly e-mail newsletter and it has typically featured interviews with staff members and what they are thankful for that year.
Office Morale Boosting Tip #7: Develop a fun gift exchange tradition for the holidays.
At Thanksgiving, the law firm will circulate a bowl of names and everyone will draw a name for a “Secret Santa” gift exchange. This past year, they held the gift exchange with an ugly holiday sweater party. You can mix this up by doing a gag or white elephant gift exchange.
Office Morale Boosting Tip #8: Get rid of “cancerous” employees.
Another way of boosting office morale is by getting rid of “cancerous” employees. What do I mean here? As a business owner, you have probably experienced this at some point. This is that employee that sees their job just as a job where they are doing you a favor by working. You know this employee – – the one who comes to work late (or not at all), produces mediocre to poor work, and, generally, brings down the rest of the office (either through a negative attitude or gossip). This is the type of person that will greatly impact the rest of the office, both in terms of productivity and office morale. Take the necessary steps to legally and ethically remove these types of “cancerous” people from your office and you will immediately see an improvement among others in your firm.
Office Morale Boosting Tip #9: Consider staff for opportunities to give non-monetary gifts.
You can find easy ways to give non-monetary gifts to your employees. Phil is an avid hockey fan (GO Kings GO!) and enjoys watching live theatre productions. Occasionally, he is unable to attend some of the shows or games that he has tickets for and he gladly disperses these to his associate attorneys and staff. He also utilizes reward points he generates from various programs, such as American Express and FedEx business accounts, to purchase gift cards and other gifts. Our office also utilizes free offers through Office Depot to disperse small, but much appreciated gifts, such as totes and kitchenware, to employees.
Office Morale Boosting Tip #10: When possible, find opportunities to put together firm trips or outings.
This last tip may not be feasible at the very moment, but it’s something to work towards and to even put out into the universe for your staff members to work hard towards. Phil has gone on numerous firm trips throughout his 35 years of practice. From a firm trip to Hawaii to a 3-day cruise to Ensenada, Mexico. These trips typically involve all firm members and one guest of their choice (so they can bring a spouse or some other companion). Throughout these trips, Phil encourages the staff to come together for one meal each day, but for the most part, gives people free rein to enjoy themselves with others in the firm and/or their accompanied guest. I have had the pleasure to go on a cruise with the firm. Not only was it tons of fun, but it really gave me a new appreciation working for Phil, truly realizing that I was working for such a unique company that cared for its employees and that this would be hard to find elsewhere. Also, there are occasional out-of-town work-related trips (such as live training programs, exhibiting at conferences or CE conferences), where Phil will give some extra time off to compensate for working longer hours or into the evening and then you can vacation at these locations. These types of perks help boost morale in the office and, also help solidify (at least for me) a sense of loyalty and interest to the company. Work hard, play hard.
BONUS Office Morale Boosting Tip #11: Praising employees for doing things right.
Last, but not least, one of the easiest (and cheapest) morale boosting action you can take is simply praising employees for doing their job well or doing the right thing. Too often, employees are scolded for all of the wrong things that they may have done or mistakes they have made. Praise for doing a job well done is something that employees don’t hear enough of and can have a huge impact. This praise can be verbal in one-on-one meetings and interaction, a simple “Thank You” card (without any gift) or public acknowledgement in front of the firm (or even with clients). Likewise, as business owners, there are times where you may make a mistake. Apologizing or acknowledging when you’ve made a mistake or messed up (such as yelled at an employee out of frustration or anger) is a great way to boost morale and improve inter-office relationships between you and your staff.
In conclusion, I hope that some of these tips will help you in developing a team of members for your firm and not just a group of people working for you and getting a paycheck. You don’t have to do all of these at once, but find one or two things that you can quickly and easily implement and see how giving a little back to your team can really raise their spirits and, at the end of the day, result in a happier, more productive office.
(Reading this article, staring at a silk pie Phil brought in today and at how many food incentives we get, I am starting to wonder if we should be asking Phil to start some kind of gym membership or fitness program for employees. Hmmmm. Hehe.)
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristina Schneider is the current Executive Director of The Ultimate Estate Planner, Inc. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Pepperdine University in 2004 and was hired right out of college to work for the Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, coordinating and facilitating Philip Kavesh’s “Missing Link” Boot Camps while also providing administrative support to Mr. Kavesh as his Executive Assistant for over seven years. Through her direct hands-on experience in Mr. Kavesh’s law firm, Kristina has been able to assist numerous estate planning professionals through The Ultimate Estate Planner and, equally as important, many of their staff members, in the successful implementation of Ultimate Estate Planner’s products and systems. You can reach Kristina at (424) 247-9495 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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