Unhappy employees make for an unhappy company. Decreased productivity (and the attendant costs), more sick days, increased turnover (and that associated cost)…the downsides to dissatisfied workers are many—and expensive. But it seems like keeping them happy can be expensive, too!
We’ve all heard the stories. In an effort to go above and beyond for their staff, many mega-companies like Google regularly make the news with their stellar office perks: in-house massage therapists, free meals, gyms and showers, game rooms, even laundry facilities. The list goes on and on. Talk about pricey!
But you don’t have to have Google’s budget to have great workplace morale. Here are six simple, inexpensive changes you can implement to boost your employees’ happiness.
- Free Coffee
It’s debatable whether America really runs on Dunkin’ specifically, but it’s undeniable that the American workforce runs on caffeine—so keep it comin’. Business Insider calls coffee “the one office perk you MUST splurge on,” citing coffee as a factor in boosting performance and creating a positive office atmosphere. Employees will save time and money on runs to the nearest coffee shop if they can just head to your kitchen or coffee pot. Why not add some free snacks while you’re at it?
- Standing Desks
The typical office day job—in which we sit for about six hours a day—has recently been identified as a contributor to health problems of many types, from obesity to cardiovascular issues to cancer. Taking walking breaks outside, walking meetings, or pacing at intervals throughout the day can help limit the effects of prolonged sitting. But standing desks make standing for part of the workday easy and minimally disruptive. Employees using standing desks report increased focus and improved mood as well as physiological benefits.
The best option of all is a workstation that can convert from sitting to standing, allowing for periods of standing rather than a full day on foot. (Standing too much can be as bad as sitting too much, leading to spine, knee, and circulation problems.) Three hours a day is a good goal, but should be worked up to slowly.
- AM/PM Stretching
In addition to standing more, employees benefit from moving more in general throughout the work day. Encourage employees to take micro breaks at their desks to stretch by providing a handy list or poster of good stretches for counteracting computer posture. Five to ten minutes of activity per hour should do the trick! There are several software programs and apps which remind employees to get moving and lead them through a brief stretch routine. A stretch break is a good time for a little deep breathing, too.
Better yet, implement group active stretching in the morning before beginning work and in the afternoon when energy is waning. Consult a physical therapist or fitness coach to make sure your program is safe and effective.
- A Break Space
Taking breaks goes against the workaholic culture that is ingrained in many workplaces. But in reality, not taking breaks actually lowers productivity. Breaks allow employees to decompress, then return to tasks with a “fresh brain” and more focus. Breaks can also boost creative thinking and problem-solving. If possible, allow employees to take breaks when they choose.
A break space away from the hustle (or perhaps the intimidating hush, as the case may be) of the office allows employees a chance to truly disengage temporarily from work tasks and the worry around them. Create a bulletin board where employees can share photos or announcements. Put some plants in the break room—and throughout the office—to help improve employee satisfaction and focus. An office book exchange or lending library shelf, where employees can pick up something to read during breaks, is a great addition, too. As much as possible, give the space a visual difference from the typical work atmosphere.
Companies with employees who frequently work overtime or late shifts may want to consider a nap room with a couch or cot and dimmable lighting for power napping.
- Time for Passion Projects
Developer Atlassian has “ShipIt” days, in which all employees have 24 hours to work on a project of their choosing (from finally eliminating an annoying software bug to creating an on-site video studio for filming content to installing homebrew beer taps in the office), present it to the team, and then celebrate everyone’s accomplishments. Whether structured as friendly competition like ShipIt days, or as an allotment of hours per month, build in time for projects employees really want to be working on but never seem to find the time for.
Another consideration: allot time for charitable work. Allow a paid half- or full-day per quarter for employees to work with a charitable organization of their choice, or find a cause you can all contribute to together.
- Socializing Opportunities
An occasional staff happy hour, lunch out, or trivia session can go a long way towards increased employee satisfaction and making your team feel more, well, team-like. Encourage socialization off-site as well so that your employees don’t just see each other in the work environment (with its associated stresses) but instead have a chance to connect in a more natural way.
Not only do social opportunities create stronger interpersonal relationships among your team, increasing their ability to work together cohesively, it can help to humanize those at upper levels of the company and make them more approachable for staff.
What simple changes have you made around your workplace to boost employee happiness? Let us know in the comments below!