Get a read on team morale each week with Spill's easy pre-meeting checkin.
The pandemic made plenty of us rethink the way we work. And it turns out that lots of what we thought of as company culture was actually office culture. An online quiz (starting at 6pm sharp, everyone!) just isn’t a fair swap for a night at the pub after meeting a tough deadline together.
Keeping your teams upbeat and engaged with the company, their work and each other can be a challenge, especially if you have a remote team, but it's time well spent. Low employee morale comes at a cost and it can spread rapidly through the ranks. So, what can you do to combat company or job dissatisfaction within your team?
One of the company values here at Spill is to ‘bring everyone along’, and for us it embodies our approach to building morale across a (mostly) remote team. For Spill to live the value in the day-to-day, the team should feel connected, challenged, appreciated and energised, whether they’re sitting in front of one another or in front of a screen.
We’ll get to how we’ve done that shortly — for now, let’s start by looking at what employee morale means and the signs that could suggest your team’s morale has taken a downward turn.
What is team morale (and why is it important)?
In the workplace, team morale is how people feel about their working environment and their role in it. It's a mix of their emotions, attitudes, outlook, and level of satisfaction.. Working towards a common goal, coworkers with high morale are enthusiastic, excited and optimistic about the work they do. Their feelings and attitudes towards each other and their work are generally positive (bar those occasional bad days — we’re all human after all).
Morale goes a long way in determining a team’s productivity and contribution to a company. And that’s why it’s so important. A discontent team may lack motivation, be inefficient with their time and have high turnover. Not the ideal foundation for feeling and performing well, for both the company and its employees.
Productivity aside, morale also helps teams have a sense of belonging. The social connection between colleagues is the foundation of a strong team and without it, morale can take a nosedive.
Despite having a huge potential impact on a company’s success, positive team morale isn’t a given. Building a content and engaged team both on- and offline can take time and practice, and it's important to remember that every company is different. What works for your teams may not work for others and that’s okay: the best thing you can do as a manager is to ask for feedback and keep trying new things.
Download our company culture survey template
How to know if employee morale is low
When morale is low, employees feel disconnected from their work and company. Often triggered by issues with trust, communication, management and appreciation, the causes of low morale aren’t just limited to work, either. External factors such as the economy (hello, 2023 👋), unexpected changes and personal life events can all affect how your team is feeling about the workplace.
There are plenty of things you can do at work to help boost morale within your team, but first you need to know what low employee morale looks like:
- Low productivity
- A negative attitude
- Staff conflict
- Increase in absences
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Unwillingness to participate
- Internal and external complaints (within teams and from customers)
- High turnover
If you spot any of these signs in your team, it's probably time to take action. Before making drastic changes, it's a good idea to start by gauging your team’s thoughts about work. Once you have a better understanding of what’s going on (and why), you’ll be able to start rebuilding your team’s spirit.
Get a read on team morale each week with Spill's easy pre-meeting checkin: see insights and analytics on team-wide changes, and get peace of mind knowing that anyone struggling will be reached out to by a Spill therapist.
13 ways to build team morale
The ideas listed below are grouped based on our drivers of morale here at Spill: connection, growth, appreciation and energy. Together, they all directly help us achieve one of our company values to ‘bring everyone along’, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used by anyone looking to build and maintain strong team morale in the office or at home.
Boost team morale by staying connected
1. Turn your cameras on 💻
Lots of communication falls through the cracks on a voice call. Sometimes, it’s easier to read a facial expression than a tone of voice. By turning your cameras on by default, especially for all-hands meetings, your team may feel more present, more willing to speak up and more accountable to each other. Coming off-mute for a round of hellos or a round of applause is another virtual morale booster that’ll help you feel more connected on a team call.
2. Treat every staff member like they’re remote 🏠
If you’re a hybrid business, make sure to join video calls individually. There’s nothing worse than seeing the rest of your team sharing a plate of Bourbon biscuits in the same room if you’re sitting alone in your home office. Remember to record team meetings and circulate them to anyone who missed the call, too. Being deliberate about keeping your teams motivated through a team will go a long way in boosting remote team morale.
3. Get everyone to do real life experiences at the same time 📵
Crowdsource a Friday playlist, start a book club, or get your whole team to set aside the same time for a shared – but separate – activity. At Spill, we borrow Patagonia’s “Let them go surfing” philosophy to give everyone an hour on the warmest day of the month to go for a walk, no matter where in the world they are. It’s then a great excuse to share photos of what we got up to on Slack afterwards.
Boost morale by helping people grow
4. Curate learning opportunities 💡
Get your team to reach out to people they know to host a virtual talk on something interesting. Topics can be directly related to your industry or completely unexpected – the purpose is to gather around a new skill or perspective and to share ideas and insights as a team. You could also sign up to take an online course together, like The Science of Wellbeing by Yale University.
5. Tackle a challenge together 🧠
Take a leaf out of a tech team’s book and host your own hackathon. Nominate a project manager to organise the troops, and dedicate a set amount of time to solve a genuine business challenge, away from your day-to-day responsibilities. The best hackathon teams include people with different skills, abilities and experience levels. Your outcome might be a prototype, a workstream, a new product feature or a shiny new email – the point is, you got there together and you learned something new along the way.
6. Share your mistakes 🤦
Make sure there’s a public forum for everyone (including leadership) to share mistakes and learnings regularly. Failing visibly helps to build your team’s confidence in taking considered risks, reminds them that no-one’s professional 24/7, and is also just good for a chuckle around the instant-messaging campfire.
Boost team morale by showing your appreciation
7. Share feedback publicly 🏆
While constructive criticism can be delivered privately in a 1-1 meeting, make sure to publish praise publicly and generously to celebrate individual achievements and help your remote team feel valued. For anyone who’s gone the extra mile, a handwritten note through the post is an affordable and meaningful thank you from managers or team leaders.
8. Give unconditional praise 💙
That’s praise which is unrelated to someone’s performance. Unconditional praise might celebrate a colleague’s personality, their approach or their skills, and encourages people to bring their whole selves to work. We built a feature called Wall of Praise to help teams celebrate their peers anonymously. Each week, one person gets a flurry of nice messages about what they bring to the company, (over and above their team deliverables).
9. Invite regular input 🗣
There’s no-one more qualified to give feedback on your company than your colleagues. Show that you appreciate their opinion by creating a way to collect compliments and concerns about the business (include an anonymous way to contribute, too). Then create a public forum to talk about actions you’ll take as a business off the back of this feedback.
Boost team morale by keeping energy levels high
10. Set a working-from-home budget 💰
Give your team an allowance to make their home-office setup more comfortable and productive. From desk lights to headphones, foot stands to second screens, it might only take a small tweak to make a real difference to remote team morale.
11. Schedule your messages thoughtfully ⏰
Make the most of ‘send later’ features in Slack, Teams or email to automatically schedule your message for reasonable work hours. This shows respect for people’s time and stops anyone feeling like they have to reply immediately. You can also create your own ‘Right to Disconnect’ policy to show that you mean business about boundaries.
12. Normalise breaks 🧘
Stepping away from the screen can feel strangely tricky when you’re working from home. But regular breaks are good for creativity, productivity and overall wellbeing (not to mention eye health). Make daytime breaks more visible – and culturally acceptable – by adding an emoji to your Slack status when you’re away from your screen, and ask other managers to do the same. This has the added bonus of making sure your break goes undisturbed.
13. Review recurring meetings 🗓
Nothing weighs on morale more than an unnecessary meeting. Every quarter, make sure to review your ongoing meeting invitations. Check that each meeting is still serving a purpose, and prune the ones that could be a written update, instead.
Company culture can't just be office culture anymore
Building team morale always takes a concerted effort, and that’s especially true when you’re not physically ‘at work’ with your team. But it’s important that any efforts you make to boost your culture virtually should be thought of as remote-first rather than office-goes-online.
Any efforts you make to boost your culture virtually should be thought of as remote-first rather than office-goes-online
Making sure there are opportunities for spontaneous conversation and collaboration between different departments is just as important for our emotional wellbeing as it is for company growth and innovation. If you’re looking for more ways to boost happiness at work, check out our great big list of low-cost employee wellbeing initiatives, plenty of which can be implemented remotely.
Download our company culture survey template
See how much it would cost to use Spill to survey your team's morale each week, and have Spill therapists follow up with anyone feeling low.