How to Keep Your Employees Happy (When More Money Isn’t An Option)

In case you’ve been living under a rock — in Antarctica — the economy is still sputtering back to health. The “new” economy is uncomfortable (still) to everyone, including your employees. You may be too busy trying to keep them on the payroll to notice that your staff is a little on edge. (Hint: If your marketing guy shows up to work wearing nothing but bicycle shorts and a pink wig, it’s a sure sign that your crew is in need of a few office perks like, yesterday.)

I’m going to go out on a limb and assuming you don’t have tons of cash to help ease the pain. Cash is good, but it’s the little things that make all the difference. Here is a list of small things you can do to make a big impact on the well-being of your team:

1. Thanks

A sincere “thank you” can go a long way to improve employee morale. In these tough economic times, everyone wants to feel valued and appreciated. Take time out to personally thank your colleagues for a job well done, a great idea, or a nice save. Blanket statements of thanks are disingenuous, but specific expressions of gratitude always feel good.

2. Food & Drink

Stock up on drinks and (healthy) snacks at your local discount store. It may seem too expensive, especially when you’re cutting corners left and right, but this line item is a keeper. A full and happy stomach will prevent distractions and random trips to the corner store. And yes, they will take a few drinks for the trip home, but that’s a good thing.

3. Volunteer Time

Offer your colleagues one day off (with pay) every quarter to volunteer at a local charity with fellow staffers. Service projects are a great bonding experience. Helping an organization gets the mind off work for a day—and gives people perspective so their own problems seem more manageable. They will come back to your office the next day with renewed enthusiasm, and that too is a good thing. A very good thing.

4. Flexible Scheduling

Offer employees the option of setting their own schedules to suit what works best for them. With freedom to work when they are most productive you may actually reap benefits beyond improved morale. If you need your colleagues to work specific hours, try flex scheduling one or two days a week.

5. Exercise Program

Exercise is a proven mood booster and stress reducer, so get your team moving. Start a walking program, allowing your staff to take an extra half-hour break each day to walk together. Or, if walking isn’t their thing, put up a basketball hoop in the parking lot so they can go blow off some steam.

Even if your staff isn’t about to go postal, implementing one, or all of these suggestions will keep your hard working colleagues happy—and hard working.

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