Fun and Inexpensive Ways to Boost Morale During Tough Economic Times

As employers we want our staff to provide the best possible service to our customers. In order to accomplish this we need to encourage and recognize all of their efforts no matter how small or large those efforts may be.

In today’s business climate we are still faced with a steady economic downturn and our financial resources are being depleted. Many employers have been forced to have uncomfortable meetings, sharing with their employees the necessity for freezing salaries and scaling back on benefits. This may cause employee morale to plummet. As supervisors we must be careful not to send the wrong message by planning elaborate events. It is our responsibility to find inexpensive and creative ways to show our staff, everyday, how much we appreciate all they do for the organization. This will, hopefully, encourage them to continue to produce the same quality of work and maintain morale.

Now is the time when we must think outside the box and brainstorm for simple, inexpensive ways to show appreciation to our staff. Having upper level management on board is a key component to effectively implement these ideas. Managers are the people that have to be ready to assist in making sure these ideas come to fruition. Management must be ready and willing to have fun and they need to be whimsical in order to implement these ideas. It means a lot to staff when their supervisors really are behind the implementation of these “thank yous” for staff.

Some of the ideas may include but are, of course, not limited to:

-¢ Get all upper level managers to have a pancake breakfast for staff. This is the perfect opportunity to involve managers in the fun. They can bring out their skillets, put on their chef hats and make pancakes for staff.
-¢ Organize a potluck luncheon for staff, where each person brings a dish for everyone to eat. You can complete this event with games and even a theme. Inexpensive items can be purchased for raffle or trivia prizes.
-¢ Set up a mini-golf course, or mini bowling in the halls of the office. Provide music and snacks for a mid-afternoon break.
-¢ Create fun drinks and call them ‘mocktails’ (i.e., root beer floats, passion fruit punch, etc.); use a cart and go office to office, cubicle to cubicle and serve staff a refreshment in the middle of an afternoon.
-¢ Create a super casual day when staff may wear casual items that they normally could not wear in the office, (i.e. shorts, pajamas, etc.), but all in good taste!
-¢ Have a mid-afternoon surprise treat. Bring in a chocolate fondue pot or a S’mores maker and roast marshmallows over the flame and allow people to make their own snacks.
-¢ Facilitate a bake-off between the various departments. Staff can compete for simple prizes like a pizza party for their department or an extra half hour for lunch one day.
-¢ Deliver fresh baked cookies to staff, office to office. This can be inexpensively achieved with a couple packages of “break and bake” cookie dough. All you need is an oven! Just bake and serve, maybe even with a glass of milk!
-¢ Close the office early the eve before a holiday. This is a way to show staff that you value their lives outside the office.
-¢ Near the 4th of July or Flag Day create a quiz on American History Trivia and divide staff up in teams to try and complete the quiz. Provide some festive treats like ice cream or chips and a prize for the winning team.

These are all simple, yet effective ways of bringing a little fun into the work place, and to help boost employee morale. During tough economic times, where our staff is dealing with salary freezes and the limiting of benefits, it is especially important to lighten the mood of the office. Take a few minutes away from the daily grind and remind staff that you value the work that they do. Employees will respect and appreciate your efforts if you lend some of your time to show them you can have a little fun too, while spending less money and using a little creativity.

Lisa Korotkin Rothberger is the human resources manager at JARC, a nonprofit organization based in Oakland County, Mich. providing residential and support services to people with developmental disabilities. JARC is a winner of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in Metro Detroit. Rothberger can be reached at [email protected].