Easy ways to boost team morale on a budget

10 Affordable Ways To Improve Team Morale

Posted June 2, 2016 by Caroline Whitney in Managing Your Team
Higher employee morale means more productivity, collaboration, and retention. So how can you do it easily and on a budget?

What is morale? And why is it important to a team's success and a company's business goals? 

Morale is the capacity of a group of people to pull together persistently and consistently in pursuit of a common purpose,” says sociologist Alexander Leighton. Clearly, this is something everyone wants for their company.  Good morale means employees are productive, collaborate better, miss fewer workdays, and feel more satisfied by their work. If people feel good about their team, they’ll work seamlessly towards a common goal.

Alternatively, when a company lacks morale, it will suffer. So, how can you avoid a work atmosphere teeming with unhappy employees, and maybe even this? How can you effectively build team morale, and do so on a budget?

I’ve compiled the ultimate top ten list.

Update: We've created a comprehensive guide on affordable ways to improve employee morale. You can download a free copy here.

10 Simple Tips For Boosting Team Morale on a Budget

10.  Volunteer Together

Volunteering as a team will make employees feel good, and will help them feel connected to their community.  They’ll also see another side to each other.

Maybe you didn’t realize that ultra-serious Frank in accounting loves working with underprivileged kids, just like you do.  And now that you know you have that in common, your happiness factor rises just a smidge when you see him at work.  Your company could even partner with a nonprofit that ties into your corporate philanthropy.  Volunteering is an activity you can do together that does good, but makes you feel good too.  And it’s free!

88% of Millennials want a fun and social workplace environment.

9.  Work on Your Fitness

We’ve already outlined the  benefits of having active employees, and we’d like to force the issue.  Be active, and be active together! It’ll make your employees more productive if they’re getting healthy and fit, and if they’re doing it together, it’ll build morale too.  There are so many possibilities: attend athletic events as a company, join a corporate challenge, do a fun run, or join a sports league as an office.  Have office-wide fitness challenges.  Think about combining fitness activities with volunteering: participate in a dance-a-thon for charity, or Relay for Life.  These activities are affordable and will bring your employees together.

8.  Themed Potlucks

This is by far my favorite morale-building tool.  At my very first job, we turned our serious, lengthy monthly meetings (tips on how to improve those here) into events we truly looked forward to: themed potlucks!  This turned a meeting we all dreaded into a meeting we liked.  

We had a fun time brainstorming ideas for the next potluck, some of which were: a milkshake bar, a big cheese plate (my favorite), summertime foods, a cereal bar (with various milks), rainbow food (everyone picked a color), chinese food day, and even a nautical theme (this featured tuna rolls, goldfish crackers, and blue cupcakes with anchors on them).  Food helped us to get excited about the meeting, and in turn, our work.  

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You don’t even have to hold your potluck during a meeting; you could host a makeshift tailgate, or a yearly BBQ.  Doig so will allow employees to socialize and have fun at work, making them happier to be there.  And since everyone will bring their own dishes, the cost will be minimal to your company!

7.  Happy Hours and Dinners

While I’ve got food on the brain, allow me to quickly mention team happy hours and dinners.  Everyone loves food and drinks, so team happy hours or dinners are events that everyone will want to attend.  

If your company can’t afford footing the bill, simply organizing a monthly event (where everyone pays for themselves) could give employees something fun to look forward to that helps them to build rapport.  

6.  Watch TV Together

Is football a huge deal in your town?  Baseball? Maybe you’re not into sports but your office can’t stop talking about last week’s Game of Thrones?  Watching a sports game or TV show with your office group gets everyone’s mind off work, and again, having fun together. Combine this with a happy hour or dinner, and that’s what I call good office morale!

5.  Games, Games, Games!

Yes, you could plan a teambuilding day in your office, featuring various ice-breakers and skill-driven activities.  And there are definitely some fun ones out there

But mention the word “ice-breaker” and you’re sure to hear a collective groan.  

Why not take a day or a half day to play fun games that people actually gasp enjoy?  Or incorporate games into the work week? It could be as involved as a scavenger hunt around the city, or as small as a weekly trivia question posted on the wall by the water cooler.  Or maybe you want to invest in a used ping pong table?  Your employees deserve a break, and perhaps having a Connect Four or Operation in the break room is just what the doctor ordered.  

4.  Decorating Contests

A little healthy competition is good for everyone!  Have a decorating contest, and make it an annual event.  At that first job of mine, we had a yearly “holiday village”  door decorating competition (I totally should have won that year I had a “wine and cheese shop” door. It was 3D!).  You could even make it a team thing, pitting cubicle rows against each other.  Check out this awesome McDonald’s themed row at Linkedin’s contest!

3.  Team Swag

Who doesn't love free swag? Create fun, original, affordable company shirts at CustomInk, or get Knockaround sunglasses in your company colors. Order frisbees (incorporate them into your game day!), water bottles (use ‘em at the race you signed up for!), or koozies (for that annual summer BBQ your company initiated).  Birchbox gives each employee these awesome custom shoes on their one year anniversary.  These items are fun, functional conversation pieces - not to mention constant, continuous branding for your company.

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2. Include Families

Whether it’s a “bring your kids to work day,” or simply an open invitation for significant others at your next happy hour, including families helps employees see a more human side of each other.  It gives them little glimpses into each other’s home lives, which helps people feel more connected. 

Related article: Beyond Paid Maternity Leave: 5 Ways to Create a Family Friendly Workplace

1. Change the Way You Operate

Make your company more team oriented, even in the smallest ways.  Changing your everyday verbiage can help employees to feel more included and essential to the company’s success.  Talk about people working with you, not for you.  Replace the word “supervisor” with “team leader.” Call your departments “teams.”  Furthermore, allowing your employees to get involved in areas of the company that aren’t necessarily their job will benefit your company (more minds = more ideas), and it will increase their self worth within the company.  Most importantly, celebrate accomplishments.  Little (or big) rewards will make your employees feel good, and encourage them to keep going.  

Looking for even more ideas? We've outlined three small office changes to boost productivity here

So what’s the moral of this morale story? Mix it up! There are so many possibilities for boosting team morale.  Certainly, what’s feasible for your company depends on its atmosphere and culture; but no matter what your budget may be, there are affordable options.  

Think about the activities you would want to do socially, and make time for those activities with your teammates.  Solicit ideas from employees.  Build the culture that your team needs to thrive by offering creative outlets.  It will pay off!  The morale will be high, and your company will be at its best.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.