The “Great Resignation”—the ongoing phenomenon of millions of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs—is well underway and shows few signs of abating anytime soon.
And, in a clear departure from the old adage, “Don’t quit your job until you have another one lined up,” a not so small number of employees are quitting with no backup plan or safety net. This goes to show how desperate many employees are for a workplace that better aligns with their lifestyle and values, both of which many people have reevaluated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In many ways, the “Great Resignation” is a crisis of leadership and one that must be corrected if companies hope to retain workers. After all, it is the company leadership who is responsible for setting the tone of one of the most important aspects of employee satisfaction—company culture and the office morale that stems directly from it.
If you’re looking for simple tips to improve office morale in the new year—like letting employees work from home two days a week or handing out free lunches at the office—keep looking. Effecting a real and lasting change in office morale, and thereby reducing employee turnover, will require real reflection from leadership and a willingness to act on that reflection and learnings. To start, think about the following:
- Focusing on the obvious won’t always work.
The “Great Resignation” has made one thing clear (especially since the largest exodus of employees is coming from service industries like retail and hospitality): Employees are tired of working long hours for abysmal pay in often unhealthy environments. This applies not just to those workplaces that host essential workers—it applies to offices too!
Naturally, some employers assume that raising wages will stem the tide of resignations. But the data has not borne this out so far. To adapt another old adage: You can’t throw good money after bad office morale. So, while competitive—or at least fair—pay and benefits are crucial, it’s not the easy way out that employers often think it is. Why? Employees’ biggest problem(s) with their jobs simply isn’t the pay and neither is the “Great Resignation.” It’s about a fundamental change in values. Employees are changing their values, so workplaces—and their leadership—must change theirs as well.
- Understand what working from home is really
Over the past few years, it seems obvious that employees want to work from home at least some of the time (often referred to as adopting a hybrid workforce model).
But is this employee ask really about the location of where they perform their work? In part, yes. But look a little deeper, and you’ll find that it’s not that employees simply want to take Zoom calls from their couches in their pajama bottoms. Allowing employees to work from home at least some of the time means giving them control over themselves, their time and their lives. In other words, it lets employees know that you recognize—and care about—their lives outside of work. Consider what matters to the employee, and show them that you value what they value. It could be flexibility with their time, more time to incorporate hobbies or interests or more time to spend with family.
Will incorporating a hybrid workforce solve the “Great Resignation?” No. But it will go a long way toward increasing morale inside and outside of the office if employers understand what the values are that underlie the push for hybrid work.
- Rethink what productivity means.
Unfortunately, many folks—employers and employees alike—have bought into the myth that hours at work equal productivity, and the more hours the better. But, as some companies have seen rising productivity over the course of the pandemic, that relationship is fraying.
Employers should understand that long work doesn’t equal hard work, or good work or productive work. And they need to leverage resources and technology to encourage good work whether that means building a hybrid work environment or something else. One of those resources is rest.
To increase office morale in the new year, employers should consider a culture of rest. This could mean many different things, such as offering a subscription to a meal delivery service that will give harried employees some of their time back or no longer expecting email replies around the clock and making that an official policy. When you not only allow, but actively encourage different forms of rest, employees will be able to give more when they are at work.
- Incorporate Emotional Intelligence and empathy.
Employees can no longer pay lip service to platitudes like, “People are our greatest asset.” Employees during the time of the “Great Resignation” can see right through that. In fact, they have always been able to. The only difference is that now, employers are seeing the real effects of that. So, employers who want to retain their talent must invest in developing Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in their leadership. Understanding how to manage their own emotions and understand the effects on others is critical to office morale and employee engagement—both of which are directly tied to employee turnover.
It’s not a new discovery that people leave their jobs because of their managers. And that is truer than ever today as employees continue to reassess the role of work in their lives. By exhibiting and acting on EQ and empathy openly and frequently, managers can greatly impact office morale even in the face of other obstacles or issues.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that improving office morale is a long-term, ongoing project. Because it requires consistent changes in mindsets, attitudes and actions, there are no shortcuts.