While some on your team might be passionately awaiting the return to the office, others might need a little less than enthused. Here, we’ll outline some of the reasons that morale might be a bit low and how to boost morale and instill a positive attitude in your team.

Why is morale low?

In order to figure out how to boost morale, you’ve got to find out why morale is low in your office first. In general, there are a few reasons employees are hesitant to return to the office.

Unclear office purpose

One reason morale might be low when returning to the office is that employers and employees might disagree on why the office is necessary in the first place. A recent study from PwC showed that according to employers, the main reason an office exists is to increase employee productivity and provide a space to meet with clients.

But according to employees, the reason an office exists is for collaborating and accessing information. This gap creates a disconnect and causes employees to ask: are we here because you want us to be here, or are we here because we want to be here?

Productivity woes

Employees are pretty convinced that their productivity levels are satisfactory while working from home, and some even believe it’s been better for their productivity. What the office helps with, however, is the human connection and organic teamwork. And if employees think that their employers are simply asking them to come back for the sake of productivity, they’ll feel like their employer cares more about an arbitrary, unrealistic definition of productivity than their wellbeing. This will cause their morale to decrease.

Fixed schedules

While working from home involves taking each day as it comes, waking up for early meetings one day and working in your pajamas the next, working from the office is much more regimented. A study from Future Forum states that 95 percent of office workers want flexibility in their hours, whether they’re at the office or not. Morale can be low when you’re in an office bright and early in uncomfortable work clothes after a long commute – especially after years of no commute and sweatpants.

Tips for boosting morale

While it might seem like changing an employer’s understanding of productivity or your own work hours might be improbable, don’t give up on finding ways to boost morale.

Re-define work-life balance

While working from home, many experienced a dysregulation of work-life balance. You had meetings in the same place where you ate, slept, saw your friends, and spent time with your partner. Getting away from that enmeshment and rekindling this old mindset around work might be the best way to boost morale among your team. Make every day a constant reminder to be present, mindful, and engaged in the office, and relaxed when they head home, ready to put work on the backburner.

Identify needs

In order to figure out how to boost morale when returning to the office, it’s crucial to identify the needs of your team and employees. By knowing exactly what they want to get out of their return to work, you can know how to best make their office feel like home.

For instance, PWC’s survey reported that new workers without significant professional experience feel like they need the office more than long-time workers. They’re also more likely to meet with managers frequently, take company training programs, and ask for input. This means that more experienced employees or teammates will require different means of engagement and incentives to stay positive.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

A huge impediment to an employee’s morale is knowing that a stern disciplinarian is waiting at the office, ready to micromanage in ways they couldn’t when their team was working from home. A study from Walden University found that managers had trouble determining productivity when employees were working remotely, partially due to overcoming trust issues and changing the managerial mindset around what constituted productivity.

If employees feel like they’re working in an authoritarian office environment where their productivity is defined by their willingness to be watched, their morale will tank. So whether you’re a manager or a teammate in a leadership role, let your coworkers and employees do their best work by giving them space and flexibility.

Worthwhile perks

While employers might think that a ping-pong table or a weekly happy hour is all an employee needs to boost morale in the office, that’s not always the case. The committee that plans fun office activities can continue hosting chili cookouts and office potlucks. But employees are looking to their employers to provide perks that aren’t just entertaining but practical as well.

One example is childcare, one of the most significant issues for those seeking to return to work. There’s no better way to boost morale than taking this emotional weight off of your coworkers’ shoulders and facilitating a childcare program around the office that employees can utilize.

Realistic empathy

The last and most important feature of boosting morale is to create an environment where they feel understood. Empathize with your coworkers and employees when they feel like the weight of the world is on their shoulders. Allowing them to feel like their well-being is cared for by their teammates will console them and remind everyone that the office environment also has a human element.

However, be sure that you’re not taking up too much time with complaints or critiques of your office, as you want it to be a positive place filled with good energy. Find ways to listen and understand the plights of your teammates while also making sure that your other coworkers aren’t feeling like the workplace is becoming a gripe-fest.

Boosting morale is possible

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to boost morale and get everyone on the same page if you have teammates that aren’t especially invested in returning to the office. By listening, learning, and offering empathetic support, you can begin building programs that make everyone’s office life more fun, whether forming a potlucks committee or appealing to management for policy changes.

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