Ten Tips for Boosting Office Morale

team-playerBy Kristina Schneider, Practice Success Coach

With all that’s going on right now in the world, office morale may be down.  A lot of change has impacted people over the past few years.  Perhaps you have different staff now, but the effects of the pandemic, the politics, the news stories, and the fears of the economy have left a lot of people feeling burnt out and empty. Even if you have tried your best to keep these things from impacting the overall environment in your office, morale in your office may be taking a hit.

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 to work can greatly impact your business, either negatively or 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 19th anniversary working for 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 18+ 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 19 and 17 years and paralegals that have been with him for 28 and 32 years!

Here are some tips for helping boost morale in your office.

Office Morale Boosting Tip #1: Get Rid of the “Cancerous” Employees.

Right out the gate, I have to tell you that a major source of low morale in the office is keeping around any “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 there.  You know this employee – – the one who comes to work late (or not at all), produces mediocre to poor work (or fails to do certain tasks at all), and, probably most impactful in terms of office morale, brings down the rest of the office with a negative attitude, gossiping, passive aggressive behavior or even outright verbal attacks.  This is the type of person that is dragging your office down, both in terms of productivity and office morale.  The biggest cost to you that these cancerous employees can create for you and your practice is the loss of other really great employees—either with employees quitting or other employees following suit and also starting to act and behave similarly.  So, evaluate your current team and take the necessary steps to legally and ethically remove these types of “cancerous” people from your office.  I promise you that you will immediately see an improvement among others in your firm!

Office Morale Boosting Tip #2: Praise Employees for Doing Things Well.

One of the easiest (and cheapest) morale boosting actions 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 yelling 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.

Office Morale Boosting Tip #3: Make Sure Your Office Has a Designated Break Room.

A 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 at their desks or 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 made sure that it 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.

Office Morale Boosting Tip #4: Re-Evaluate Your Holiday Hours and Vacation/Sick 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 open on 3 days from 8:30am to 12:30pm. Employees that work on these days 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 per year for employees starting out up to their 5th anniversary, then it goes up to 15 days until their 10th anniversary, when it goes up to 20 days.  10 days per year are allowed to carry over into the next year.
  • 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, Fridays before Memorial, Independence and Labor Day holidays).

As you will notice, Phil’s firm differentiates sick and vacation time.  Some firms have no differentiation between the two (personal time off or “PTO”).  The problem with this is that in a small office, PTO can be used whenever so if an employee is simply not wanting to come into work on a Monday after a little bit too much fun over the weekend, they can.  But, what happens when you have a small office and most or all of your staff are out?  It can be extremely disruptive and effectively shut down your whole operation.  With specific hours designated for sick pay (unexpected time off that is not approved in advance) and with a payout at the end of the year for unused hours, this can help to eliminate those unnecessary absences and be better prepared for people out of the office with pre-approved time off for vacation hours.

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 #5: Host a Team Lunch Once a Month.

Food and bonding together through social events can play a big role 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 it 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, 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 #6: Celebrate Birthdays, Work 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 birthdays, work anniversaries, babies and weddings.  At each monthly firm meeting, birthdays and anniversaries are acknowledged.  On or near an employee’s birthday, a cake will be brought in especially for that employee.  On major work employment anniversaries, flowers are given to employees and a gift for the major milestones (1, 5, 10, 15, 20, etc.).  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 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 #7: Encourage Other Team Development Types 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 holiday-themed potlucks, like for Cinco de Mayo or St. Patrick’s Day.  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.  Happy hour, top golf, arcade games, bowling, movies, escape room, and even mani/pedis (we did this at Ultimate Estate Planner). Again, these types of events help develop the inter-office relationships among team members which will only lead to a happier, more cooperative and efficient group of people working for you in the office.

Office Morale Boosting Tip #8: Show Your Staff Some Gratitude for Thanksgiving.

At Thanksgiving, Phil will distribute $50 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 one of the days 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 #9: Develop a Fun Gift Exchange Tradition for the Holidays.

At the Thanksgiving luncheon, the law firm will circulate a bowl of names and everyone will draw a name for a “Secret Santa” gift exchange.  They have even held the gift exchange with an ugly holiday sweater party.  You can mix this up by doing a gag or white elephant gift exchange. I’ve also heard of firms doing something charitable in the community, like sponsoring a family for the Christmas holiday or collecting toys or canned goods.

Office Morale Boosting Tip #10: Find Non-Monetary Gifts/Rewards for Staff.

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.  You can also provide other types of benefits to employees, such as randomly letting people out early on a Friday.

BONUS TIP: If Possible, Find Opportunities to Go on Firm Retreats/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 40+ 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 had the pleasure of going 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.

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.

(Side note. Reading this article, staring at some goodies that Phil brought in today and at how many food perks we get, I am starting to wonder if the company could also consider some kind of gym membership perk for employees too!  Hmm.  Hehe.)


Kristina Schneider is a Practice Success Coach here at 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. She is currently pursuing her MBA degree from Pepperdine University Grazadio Business School.  You can reach Kristina at (424) 247-9495 or by e-mail at kristina@ultimateestateplanner.com.

Image courtesy of iosphere | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Leave a Comment