Boost employee morale in 2021

08 June 2021

What few anticipated was the length of time business would have to operate remotely and personal lives would be limited by restrictions. Any sense of situation novelty has long since worn off and lockdown living is becoming a real challenge for many. And although there is light at the end of the tunnel, in some countries, with vaccination programmes in place and restrictions easing, there are still many unknowns around the crises. 

Will vaccines work on all variants? When will the crises subside? Will life be the same as it was before when it does? These are big questions that only time can answer but the endless feel to the pandemic in addition to personal challenges your employees may have encountered might be leading to poorer morale amongst your workforce. 

Employee morale is the overall feeling of achievement, attitude and wellbeing an employee has for their workplace. There are many elements that feed into the morale of a workplace. The company culture and work environment are two that have been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. If these were important aspects of your office morale, it may be suffering in today's remote working world. 
Studies show workplace morale plays an important role in employee engagement and the quality of work produced. Most importantly for most businesses, positive employee morale retains and attracts talent, a key component of overall business success.

An added challenge for management and HR teams working with a remote workforce is knowing if employee morale is low. In an office environment changes in body language, engagement levels during in person meetings or other physical signs of boredom might be an indicator. When everyone is working from home, these signs disappear and instead the focus needs to be on more subtle signs that employees feel deflated. Some signs that employees may be struggling include:

  • Increase in ‘presenteeism’
  • Decline in the quality of work
  • More mistakes in work that is completed
  • Missed deadlines
  • Lack of initiative or willingness to take on new assignments
  • Increased pessimism about your businesses performance
  • Change in the frequency of communication or requests for feedback

Some or all of these signs may be an indication that employees are struggling, and it is time for management and/or HR to step in with tactics that have been shown to improve morale on a day to day basis:

There is no doubt some morale boosts are going to require investment in time and resource however there are ways to show employees they are valued that only require a shift in communication style:


Be a positive speaker

There are three primary management styles when communicating with employees. Neutral, where managers don’t say too much, negative, where employers may point out flaws or focus on criticism, and positive highlighting good performance and encouraging the outcome you want in your communications. Try to keep communications as positive as possible as this is likely to impact how employees feel while at work.


Employee recognition

Although official employee recognition programmes can be a more costly exercise, do not underestimate the benefit of a well-timed ‘well done’. Taking the time to send an email to an employee copying in others, for a job well done can do a lot to let them and your wider team know you appreciate and value their contribution.  


Be actively available

Actively meet employees and ask about their concerns, particularly at the moment. A suggestion from a human resources consultant who has worked with Fortune 500 companies, is to conduct ‘stay interviews’ to understand what keeps employees with your business. It is also an opportunity to ask what within your company could be improved? Feeling heard is likely to provide a morale boost to teams however it may fade fast if they can not see change happening. 


Communicate often

Pre-pandemic, any business change or initiative was likely to be bolstered by a robust communications plan. During these uncertain times, regular communication is even more essential to avoid feelings of isolation. Tailor communications to the audience as much as possible and have relevant messages based on the needs of each stakeholder. For example, your communications with employees should be different to what you are communicating to customers.


Be transparent

Morale can only reach a certain level without trust in leadership, so transparency really matters when it comes to boosting employee spirits in the long term. Research show that 80% of employees want to know more about how decisions are made, and this can only be achieved with a real commitment to transparency and open communication by everyone in the business. 


Fun ways to boost morale at work

Although there is a serious component to high morale, if teams are just missing out on the enjoyment that was part of your company culture pre-pandemic, there are some fun ways to boost morale that may be really effective, including:

  • Start a virtual book club
  • Have a virtual treasure hunt
  • Host a photo competition
  • Promote company wide unplugged hours
  • Remote volunteering
  • Guess the baby competition
  • Virtual escape room challenge
  • Begin a parent group

If low morale pre-dates the pandemic or is so bad it is causing high turnover, there may be a need for longer term initiatives to drive change but we hope these elements provide a good starting point.


Employee morale is not something to be ignored if you want to keep your workforce productive and engaged but neither is their physical and mental wellbeing. If you have employees working in different locations on international assignment, we are happy to answer any questions you have about international healthcare for your employees