Times of economic instability bring added threats to workplace morale. Competing for employees’ attention is the background noise of worries, issues and concerns raised by government officials, employers, colleagues, even friends and family. How is my company really doing? What do I need to do to protect my position here? How can I possibly advance? It’s in these times that employers need to work hardest on monitoring employee morale and addressing any issues that arise.

It’s been said that happy people work harder, and we know from experience that this is, in fact, true. Happiness leads to engagement. When employees enjoy coming to work, feel good about what they do and feel that they’re valued, they’re going to work harder.

Work environment is a significant factor in a person’s well-being. It’s among the six factors in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, along with physical health, emotional health, and others. When the latest figures were released this month, the only category trending downward: Work Environment.

Enacting affirmative office policies

There are quick and simple ways to increase positivity in your work environment. Start by enacting an open-door policy. Employees will feel more comfortable asking questions (and therefore avoiding mistakes) when they know there is an open and honest flow of communication encouraged at all times.

One way to reduce tensions is relaxing dress codes and making things a little more casual. In the 2000s, employer philosophy began shifting toward the casual, a view “HR Bartender" Sharlyn Lauby summed up nicely a couple of years ago:

“You can wear a nice pair of jeans with an ironed shirt and look sharper than a person in a wrinkled suit.  Nuf said.”

Another option worth considering (or re-considering): telecommuting. Larger, more-established companies can offer telecommuting as a way to give employees more flexible schedules and in some cases make up for not offering bigger raises. It also helps with office-space expenses. If your company’s business model can support this different kind of employee experience, give it a try, but make sure to write up an agreement that clarifies if the expected work level is not met, the arrangement can change.

Here’s an unusual approach that could turn heads. In addition to the traditional mentoring programs in which the senior staff trains the junior members, flip the process around and let your younger staff help the senior leaders with mastering things like social media, complicated software and those tricky technological office gadgets.

Employee evaluation an ongoing effort

When salary increases are small or even non-existent, it’s easy to forgo periodic performance reviews. But managers still need to encourage and support the progress made by each and every employee. By acknowledging their work and giving them a pat on the back, employees recognize that they serve a purpose and are valued. As long as workers consider their jobs as meaningful, progress can grow from their enthusiasm.

We’re seeing more and more companies continue to incorporate more relaxed office policies that encourage employee communication and foster happiness and ultimately higher engagement levels. These are just a few great ways to reward employees for their hard work by allowing them to be more comfortable at the office.

27 February 2012

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