Has low staff morale become endemic? Now more than ever it seems people are not happy at work, with many factors leading to job-hopping, low employee trust and a tendency to disengage from the workplace with the second quarter of 2023 seeing approximately 335k job-to-job resignations reported. This is 13k more than in the previous quarter and peaked in later 2022 with 442k.

The trend seems to be keeping up, too. March 2023 saw Google searches for “new jobs” rise to its highest since 2020, when new job searches skyrocketed due to the pandemic. This matches new data which states nearly one in four UK workers expect to change jobs in the next 12 months, a rise from 18% in 2022 to 23% in 2023.

Given studies have shown companies with engaged employees see 21% higher profitability, it’s more important than ever to make sure your business is doing its best to not only retain staff but also improve productivity by looking after them properly.

In this article, I will discuss best practices for raising staff morale and keeping employees happy at work.

Welcome hybrid working

Hybrid working is seen as standard after recent developments in the workplace, meeting employers halfway after previously adjusting to remote setups during COVID. This is fantastic news for employers and employees in terms of morale and productivity.

Recent studies have found that 39% of remote workers feel more motivated throughout the day, with just 31% of office-based workers reporting the same. This is great for productivity, but how does hybrid fare from an employee satisfaction standpoint? Whilst 98% of respondents to one survey would like to work remotely to some extent for their whole career, one-third of workers also reported struggling with loneliness.

Hybrid work offers the best of both worlds, allowing employees to choose where they are most productive but also providing a space of support and collaboration for those who struggle with isolation.

Hybrid working is valued by employees, so much so that when the right has been taken away – employees have shown widespread, genuine frustration online. A recent example can be seen in the case of Rockstar Studios who have recently called employees back to the office full-time to combat company leaks, leading to public criticism from unions and staff.

Hybrid work is fantastic when implemented correctly. It can get the most out of your employees and massively boost employee satisfaction. The new Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023 which was passed on 20 July 2023 and came into force on the 6th April 2024 has given all employees a legal right to request flexible and hybrid work from their first day in a new job. This means employees no longer have to wait until six months of service before they can make a flexible work request. Additionally, if an employer cannot facilitate the flexible working request then it must clearly explain its reasons to the employee.

Involve your staff in business organisation

Employees have been shown to have more morale and be more engaged with their work when they feel a sense of responsibility and ownership within the business. This doesn’t mean everyone has to be a manager, but it does mean employees should be made to feel considered and important information about the business should be relayed to them as it develops.

A recent study showed that 80% of employees want to know more about how their managers and business executives reach important decisions about the business, with 87% wishing their place of work was generally more transparent.

Making an employee feel involved in the day-to-day activities of a business is the key to keeping a firm hand on engagement – even if that just means keeping them in the loop with decisions that affect how they work.

This can be done very simply through the setting of weekly department update meetings. Make sure these meetings are scheduled and attended consistently, though. Meetings which are constantly pushed back or cancelled can have the opposite effect on engagement and morale.

Measure people, not productivity

86% of employees prefer to work for a company that prioritises outcomes over output, according to a survey by Citrix. This is important to consider when seeking to attract and retain quality talent for your business.

Excessive employee reviews and targets can cause burnout, so finding a way to measure an employee’s performance without applying unnecessary pressure on them will make them feel happier and more engaged – leading to greater productivity. This can be done by setting goals which don’t relate to ‘crunch time’, which puts pressure on an employee to conduct said work in a certain way, style or timeframe.

Instead, consider reviews and goals which are more results-focused – allowing employees to work the way which makes them happiest.

Engage with employees

As a manager or director, getting on the ground with your employees doesn’t have to mean setting up your own space in the open-plan office. Employers that engage consistently with employees through any means have been shown to build more trust than ones who don’t, building employee morale through teamwork and shared priorities.

In fact, 82% of people are more likely to trust a CEO and their team if the CEO or senior staff member is more engaged on social media. The importance of engagement on any level cannot be understated as it can massively reduce absenteeism. A Gallup study shows that workplaces with high levels of engagement saw 41% lower absenteeism than the average.

Engaged employees are motivated employees. When employees and employers communicate consistently through any means it builds trust. Trust is an important commodity for an employer – it makes employees feel secure at work and grateful for the community they spend huge portions of their week in.

Just be careful not to overstep the invisible line. Contacting employees outside of work hours, including on social media, can contribute to burnout and build resentment within your staff. Healthy boundaries are the way forward.

Invest in your employees

Employee investment makes workers feel supported, nurturing them through their careers to be the best they can be. It also reduces anxiety around job security, relaying to the employee through tangible actions that an employer is interested in shared long-term success for both business and employee.

Here are some of the ways employers can invest thoughtfully in their staff:

Charity engagement days

Employers who offer ‘charity days’, which sees employees receiving a day off work a year to work for a chosen charity, can help combat burnout and motivate when back in the office – not to mention it’s great for your business’ local community!

Mental health days

This is a recent trend in workplaces that can go a long way in making employees feel cared for. Burnout and stress can massively affect morale, regardless of whether this stress is being felt by work or personal life pressure. The flexibility to take a day off work when things get too much can prevent employees from burning candles at both ends, so to speak. Allowing them to stop absenteeism before it appears.

Invest in wider training

Investment in training which goes above and beyond helping employees retain their core skills proves employers care about staff development both inside and outside their usual responsibilities. This is fantastic as it provides employers with a more skilled workforce and employees with greater confidence to adapt to new challenges in the future.

Have you been struggling with morale in the workplace? Try using these steps and see if you notice a difference within your business.

Lisa Branker
Head of Employment and HR at Beecham Peacock | Website | + posts

Lisa has over 20 years' experience of providing employment law and HR advice to both employees and employers. Lisa specialises in providing HR and employment law advice in matters including discrimination, whistleblowing, unfair/constructive dismissal, maternity and parental rights, settlement agreements, grievance and disciplinary procedures, restrictive covenants, TUPE issues, redundancies, drafting employment contracts and staff handbooks. Lisa is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association.