17 Proven Employee Morale Boosters That Won’t Break The Bank

Can you tell which office suffers from low morale?

employee morale comparison

Believe it or not, some companies are still skeptical about the value of workplace morale boosters.

Sure, morale is nice to have, their argument goes, but it’s not critical to our business, and therefore not something I need to focus on. Right?

Well, Doubty McDoubterson, you couldn’t be more wrong.

The benefits of high employee morale in your company can be summed up in one word: performance.

Research shows that high morale organizations consistently benefit from less stress, which in turn means higher productivity due to reduced turnover and absenteeism.

High morale is also a prerequisite of employee engagement, and multiple studies have shown that engaged companies outperform competitors in categories like customer service, retention, and profit.

Here are the most popular employee morale boosters, as voted on by our readers:



But what about the cost?

The reality is, businesses can’t afford to NOT focus on morale. But to put the argument to rest, we’ve compiled a list of 17 Proven Morale Boosters That Won’t Break The Bank.

Free bonus: Download a cheatsheet of our Top 50 Fun Office Games and Activities That Make Work Awesome. Easily save it on your computer for quick reference or print it out the next time you want to plan a fun event for your coworkers.

Here they are:

1. Get Weird

fun employee wellness ideas for the office

Say it with me:

“Let’s. Get. Weird.”

Ok, don’t get too weird, (let’s not get ourselves sued), but a little weirdness is a-ok. In fact, it’s beneficial to your business.

How? By embracing the quirky, off-kilter aspects of your culture, you’ll lighten the mood in the office. The idea is to make things that people tend to dread – like meetings – more fun by doing something out of the ordinary.

Ideally, you want to do things that are both weird and authentic, meaning things that reflect the culture of the organization.

Why we like this:

Because weirdness = fun. Allowing for weirdness also promotes outside the box thinking and creative problem solving.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Embrace your inner weirdness.

2. Take something boring – a weekly product meeting for instance – and make it extraordinary by injecting something unexpected into the agenda. Start the meeting with jumping jacks, or, like Michigan-based Menlo Innovations, require the speaker to wear a Viking Helmet.

3. Don’t force it! Do something that is authentically YOU.

 

2. Post-it note wars

In the last few years, DIY office supply expression has been elevated to a true artform, with increasingly complex designs.

The REAL fun begins when you inject some healthy competition into the mix. Recently, New York ad firms engaged in a very public Post-it art war, with each firm trying to one-up the other with large displays on the windows of their Canal Street offices. But it was Havas Worldwide who claimed victory with a massive mic drop. The display created buzz and lifted spirits around the city.

Post it note war

Photo belongs to JAM Project

 

post it war simpsons

Photo belongs to Caroline Lena Becker

Why we like it:

Post-it note art is the epitome of “surprise and delight.” It provides an unexpected lift and improves morale all over the workplace. Plus it’s something you can do on the cheap.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Choose an image. Classic pixelated video game images (like super Mario Brothers or Space Invaders) work great.

2. Plan your mural on a sheet of graph paper using available post-it colors.

3. Map out your wall space – or put it on glass to show your creation off to the world!

4. Apply your post-its. Remember, the surprise factor is key here. People love post-it note art because it inspires wonder and delight. The best way to do this is with a small team at night.

5. Post-it maker 3M has some advanced tips here.

 

3. Express Gratitude

There’s a growing body of scientific research that points to the benefits of gratitude. These studies show that gratitude improves physical and psychological health, improves sleep, and lifts mood. The challenge for many companies is, how do you integrate gratitude into our work lives?

At SnackNation, it’s part of our culture. We hold a Friday afternoon “Crush-It Call,” during which each employee calls out a colleague for “Crushing It” (i.e. embodying one of the company values that week), and names one thing that they are grateful for. It allows us to reflect on the week’s accomplishments and gets the weekend started on a positive note.

Here’s what the Crush It Call looks like at SnackNation HQ:

 

For dispersed workforces, distance can make expressing gratitude a challenge, but David from employee feedback platform 15Five shares their company’s solution:

“We hold an all-hands video call three times per week. Since we are remote, this is a great way to keep people connected. On Mondays, before going over the numbers from the previous week, we share a gratitude for a particular topic.

Past topics have included our communities, a particular technology, or time spent in nature. This alone keeps the energy high as it has been scientifically proven that being grateful is the key to a happy existence.”

Why we like it:

Focusing on the negative is an easy trap that anyone can fall into. Expressing gratitude helps put our daily challenges into perspective, and aids in emotions like empathy, which is essential for communication.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Create a weekly all-hands meeting, either at the beginning or end of the week.

2. Choose a theme and have team members share something in their lives for which they are grateful. It can be work-related or personal.

 

4. Fail of the Week

You’d think that something called the “Fail of the Week” would be the perfect way to decrease morale, but Los Angeles-based mobile gaming studio Scopely has proved that the opposite is true.

As former GM Jason Weiss told the Awesome Office Show, during Scopely’s weekly all-hands meetings, team members share their biggest failure that week and what they learned from it.

fail of the week

The point isn’t to call out mistakes, but to acknowledge that failure is part of the process and to share the lessons learned.

“If you’re asking people to work extremely hard, and aim high, and be ambitious, they’re going to fail [at times],” Weiss explains. “So we need to acknowledge that it’s ok to fail, or people are going to stop aiming high.”

The light-hearted tone of the fail of the week puts people at ease, makes risk taking easier, and actually improves morale.

Why we like it:

A healthy relationship with failure should be a part of your culture, particularly at growth-oriented startups, where big risks are critical to success. This practice communicates that it’s ok to fail, and emphasizes growth and learning.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Create a forum for sharing mistakes. All-hands meetings, weekly communications, or slack threads all work well.

2. Make sure to emphasize lessons learned, and what the individual is doing to prevent the same problems from happening in the future.

3. Make it fun! Brand it with a catchy name and create an award for the biggest fail.

 

5. Provide healthy food options

Some things in life are just indisputable. Like gravity, inertia, and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the healthy foods to morale correlation is one of those immutable laws of nature.

In all seriousness, healthy office snacks and meals provide a morale-boosting perk that will raise spirits and productivity.

Mood and cognition are affected by our nutrition, so providing healthy options is not just a great way to demonstrate that your employees are cared for and appreciated, but provide them with the fuel they need to work at peak performance.

 

Why we like it:

Nutritious foods boost productivity, and engagement. Also, snacking affects your overall diet more than any other food category.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Try a free discovery box of SnackNation today. Your team will thank you for it.

 

6. Thirsty Thursday

Ah, the good old fashioned happy hour. Is there anything that brings employees together better than good conversation and a few adult beverages?

But don’t make it an escape from work – and definitely don’t settle for jalapeno poppers and a blooming onion over at TGI Fridays. Create an interactive libation experience in the workplace

Sam Whiteside of The Motley Fool describes their take on the traditional happy hour:

“Every Thursday starting at 4 p.m. and running until around 6 p.m. a different team from around The Fool hosts Thirsty Thursday in our game room! The team gets to select what drinks and food are provided and also get to showcase any projects they are working on. Lots of fun, collaboration, and Foolishness is spurred from these happy hours!”

Here’s the scene from a recent Thirsty Thursday at The Fool:

Thirsty Thursday Motley Fool

Why we like this:

Social bonds are a necessary part of creating an engaged culture and high morale org. Nothing achieves this more than the tried and true happy hour.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Set aside a day of the week or month for a company-wide happy hour.

2. Have a different department host the event. Encourage each department to create a theme that reflects the character of that department.

3. Do it on company time and at the office to demonstrate your company’s commitment to fun.

 

7. Monday Morning Coffee

coffee with team to boost morale

Garfield was right: Mondays can be tough. Even when you love your job, the weekends never quite seem long enough.

That’s why it’s important to offset the occasional Monday blues.

Sabrina, from engagement software TINYpulse, shares their strategy:

“One thing that we do on our own marketing team is Monday morning coffee. Let’s admit it, we all get the Monday blues. And most of the time, we’re not ready to jump head-on into our work on Monday mornings. So instead, our team visits various coffee shops around the neighborhood (we’re located in Seattle, so there’s no shortage of coffee shops within walking distance) just relax for about half an hour.

Sometimes we talk about work, sometimes we talk about our weekends — our goal is to start off the week on a positive note so we can feel productive for the rest of the day and week.”

Another great way to use coffee to boost morale?

Use it to schedule one-on-ones. Alex Khurgin from Grovo explains:

Coffee is all it takes for a manager to treat her report to a one-on-one outside the office. It’s probably the most important thing a manager can do.

For one thing, just the act of scheduling these meetings tells employees their manager cares about them enough to spend time regularly chatting. But beyond that, savvy managers have these meetings down to a science. They start by asking the employee for any recent “wins,” rather than jumping right into the minutiae of day-to-day work.

This gives employees permission to think about their effort in terms of achievements, not tasks. That’s the point at which it’s appropriate to move on to asking about frustrations and addressing them head-on. All the while, the manager gathers feedback, takes notes, and does it distraction-free.

One-on-ones that start with positive progress and then address serious blockers help employees cultivate a winning mindset and get accustomed to feeling capable. Making a team member secure and confident is the most powerful morale booster any manager can give.

Why we like it:

Simple, but effective. It gets the team out of the office and immersed in the community, in a relaxed atmosphere.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Research local coffee shops. Half the point is exploring your neighborhood and getting to know the community. Don’t just settle for Starbucks!

2. Set an objective. It can be personal or work-related, but don’t miss out on an opportunity to have a directed conversation.

3. Appoint a note-taker to make sure any action items are recorded so team members can follow up.

 

8. Nerf Battles

Think Nerf guns are kids stuff? Think they have no place in the office?

Think again.

Darby Dupre from YouEarnedIt shares her company’s epic Nerf tale:

“Last week, we held our first ever Nerf Battle Royale. Our employees pooled together their YouEarnedIt points to fund and launch what turned out to be a powerful team-building exercise.

For 30 minutes, the entire office became a battleground where strategy, collaboration, and out-of-the-box thinking meant the difference between life and (virtual) death.”

youearnedit nerf battle

youearnedit nerf battle 2

 

Why we like it:

It’s not just fun and games. Nothing says teamwork like launching a full scale Nerf invasion. The bonds you create will strengthen your team’s ability to work together and solve problems. Plus, Nerf battles signal to your employees that it’s ok to have fun at the office.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Pick up some Nerf guns at a local toy store.

2. Set ground rules. Try a capture the flag style game, which involves strategy, teamwork, and collaboration.

3. Create a trophy for the winning team. You’d be surprised how motivating bragging rights can be.

 

9. Kick out the Jams

listen to music at the office

Nothing quite sets the mood like music, making it a fun and easy way to improve morale in any office setting.

What’s more, certain types of music make repetitive tasks more enjoyable, improve focus, and can even make us more creative.

Instrumental music works best, as lyrics have a tendency to distract. Luckily there are great instrumental versions of popular songs available from artists like the Vitamin String Quartet.

Why we like this:

Music not only sets the right mood, but can also help aid focus and productivity.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Subscribe to the SnackNation Ultimate Productivity Playlist on Spotify. This constantly updated playlist contains more than ten hours of instrumental music curated by the music fanatics at SnackNation. Artists include Explosions in the Sky, Classix, Tycho, Deceptikon, El Michels Affair, Menahan Street Band, and a ton more.

2. Press play, bliss out.

 

10. Connect Employees with On-Demand Services

Inspired by the likes of Uber and Lyft, the on-demand economy is in full swing. Workplaces amenities like massages, haircuts, and car washes are available on-demand in most major cities.

At SnackNation, we utilize the LA and Orange County based car wash service Washos, which provides a quality, on demand car wash at a reasonable price. But since SnackNation just facilitates the service, it’s of no cost to the company, and still provides a morale-boosting amenity that our team appreciates.

on demand car wash

Why we like this:

Your employees are always pressed for time. Help them get weekly errands done during the workday by facilitating access to these on-demand services.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Research locally available on-demand services. Massages, haircuts, laundry services, and carwashes are all popular in the on-demand economy.

2. Appoint a team member – either an HR staffer or office manager – to facilitate the service at the office. You can often negotiate a lower price based on a guaranteed number of customers.

 

11. Get Your Green On

Studies have shown that green space improves mental health. Humans, it turns out, are hard-wired to appreciate natural beauty, and people are happier and less stressed when they have access to parks and open spaces.

Of course, if you work in an urban environment or an area with harsh winters, this access isn’t always easy to come by.

The solution? Bring the green spaces indoors.

flowers on desk

Barbara Moy and her team at CaseWare International Inc. out of Toronto, Canada decided to do just that. She and her team provided everyone at the company with a small potted sunflower at their desk.

They found that the experiment brightened the office and lightened people’s moods, helping to offset the dreary Canadian winter. Plus, the mere fact that the plants required daily care reduced absenteeism.

Why we like it:

Cheap, fun, and proven to counter phenomena like seasonal affective disorder (SAD). What’s more, a University of Queensland study found that an office outfitted with plants can actually increase employee productivity by 15 percent.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Buy small pots, potting soil, and seeds for easy to manage flowers like sunflowers (this will run you about $3-4 per employee).

Tip: you can buy pollen-free varieties to accommodate employees with allergies.

2. Incentivize ongoing participation with awards for biggest bloom, most beautiful specimen, and greenest thumb.

 

12. Food Trucks

One of the most appreciated on-site perks at Google is their famous cafeteria, which provides gourmet-quality food for their employees. Of course, very few companies can afford to provide an amenity like this.

Food trucks are a great solution because they provide access to new and exciting food options, without the need to build a kitchen or hire a world-class chef.

food truck SN

SnackNation’s Steve Odachowski is a big food truck fan:

“Food trucks are a cool perk. You get to eat something new every day, and it’s not just different food, you know it’s local food. It’s really a taste of what the local food scene has to offer. It’s also something to get excited about every day. One of the happiest emails I read every morning is definitely the food truck email.”

Why we like this:

This is completely cost-free, but you’ll get credit for providing your employees with gourmet quality lunches. Bonus benefit – your employees will waste less time driving to and from local eateries or grocery stores, and thus will be more productive. Score!

Here’s how to do it:

1. Research local food trucks in the area and contact their owners. Let them know that you can supply them with customers.

2. Promote food truck arrivals with a company-wide email.

3. Get in touch with an office manager or HR leader in neighboring businesses to coordinate and share information on food truck arrivals. Once your location has a reputation for providing hungry lunchtime workers, the food trucks will keep coming.

4. Bon appetit.

 

13. Personal Development

Ever heard the phrase, “Dead-end job?”

It’s very common for morale to suffer when employees feel like there’s no room for growth.

To ensure this isn’t the case, be proactive about growth and development.

Personal development is huge here at SnackNation. We hold weekly personal development meetings (Sensei Sessions), during which senior leadership or regular team members present on personal development topics.

Here’s our CEO, Sean Kelly, talking about goal setting during his sensei:

 

We also recently launched Individual Development Plans (IDP). These plans ensure that team members are setting personal and professional goals and making steady progress. If you want to download a template of our IDP, click here.

The result is a feeling that we’re all getting better, both as individuals and as a company.

Why we like this:

The success of your business depends on the quality of your people. Why wouldn’t you assist your employees grow and get better?

Here’s how to do it:

1. Have employees fill out Individual Development Plans, which layout a framework for personal and professional goals.

2. Plan monthly meetings with managers to track against goals.

 

14. Form a Book Club

book club

A company sponsored book club solves a problem that tons of employees face, but few employers take the initiative to address:

Most people want to read more, but simply don’t have the time.

Gallup recently found that Americans with full-time jobs work an average of 47 hours per week, or the equivalent of 6 full work days. Nearly 40% logged more than 50 hours per week. With family obligations presumably taking up most of our free time, this leaves precious little room for personally-enriching activities like reading.

The scope of your book club can vary. A book club that focuses on the Harry Potter series is perfectly ok, but for double the value, throw in some business or self improvement titles as well. Your company as a whole will likely benefit from new ideas and more focused workers.

Matthew from MyEmployees elaborates on how he runs his book club:

“Every week we hold a 1 hour book club meeting (half the company on Wednesday 10a-11a, half on Thursday 10a-11a). We use this time for discussion on personal development books on subjects like motivation, financial discipline, stress management, interpersonal relationship development. It’s one of the highlights of the team’s week, and one of our primary employee engagement drivers.”

Why we like it:

Sure, books are great, but book clubs aren’t all about learning – half the benefit is social. These casual meetings create the bonds and connections between individuals that help improve day-to-day morale.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Announce the formation of a company book club at an all-hands meeting or company-wide email, and ask employees to sign up and join.

2. Crowdsource book ideas to ensure that employees are engaged with the material.

3. Pick one person to present each week. Make sure the leader has some talking points to get the discussion started.

4. Assign snack (or wine!) duties to individual team members. Half the point is to socialize with colleagues in a casual, low-stress situation.

 

15. Group Fitness

Group fitness is a great way to kill two birds with one stone – create a bonding experience for your employees while improving the organization’s overall health and fitness.

Exercise, of course, has been shown to improve mood and cognition. Group fitness adds a social element that will help strengthen personal relationships at work.

Group fitness fanatic (and SnackNation’s resident yogi), Kelsey Cook, explains:

“Group fitness is great for team building and getting to know people. It’s a relaxed setting that’s still in the office, but apart from the typical day-to-day office grind. Plus having the company arrange group fitness activities shows that they care about our personal wellbeing, not just what we can contribute to the company. Plus it’s a fun way to let off some steam!”

on site yoga

Why we like this:

There is virtually no downside to group fitness. It’s a great bonding opportunity, increases mood, and the health benefits will result in higher productivity in the long run.

Here’s how to do it:

1. You don’t have to hire a fitness coach or build an onsite gym. Start a running group or meet for group workouts, yoga, or meditation at a nearby park.

2. Appoint a fitness leader to keep the enthusiasm going and team members motivated.

3. Be consistent! The more workouts, the more benefits you’ll see.

 

16. Clothing Swap

clothing swapRecently, SnackNation Project Manager Hannah Avellaneda wanted to de-clutter her closet. But rather than just throw out or donate her clothing, she felt like she could be doing more.

Noticing that the women in our office had great style, she coordinated with other office fashionistas, and the SnackNation Clothing Swap was born.

It worked like this: the group all gathered their excess clothes, laid them out in the company warehouse, and traded with each other. The remaining clothes were then donated to a survivor of domestic violence through an organization called Becky’s Fund.

Hannah explains:

“The clothing swap was a lot of fun and a great ice breaker for a lot of the new employees. It also gave us a good sense of accomplishment and purpose. We are able to give back both internally and to the external community. We all got to de-clutter a little bit, and were super appreciative that our hand-me-downs were put to good use.”

Why we like it:

Not only did the clothes go to a good cause, but the swap became a great conversation starter, and the basis for several close friendships in the office.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Set a date for a clothing swap.

2. Have team members clean out their closets and gather excess clothes.

3. Find a space to layout clothes and trade items.

4. Find a suitable charity to donate to.

 

17. Volunteer Days

Like expressing gratitude, volunteering takes you out of the myopia of your day-to-day work and provides a broader perspective. They’re a great way to get out of the office, relieve some stress, and do some good – something that will always improve morale.

SnackNation’s resident volunteer coordinator Elisa Silvestro had this to say about the impact of volunteering:

“Company-sponsored volunteer days are great for morale. For starters, they show that your company is invested in you becoming a well-rounded person who is involved in the community, not just an employee.”

snacknation at feeding america

The SnackNation team helping out at Feeding America HQ in Los Angeles, CA

Morgan from employee recognition company Blueboard agrees:

“Volunteering is an awesome way to boost morale and give back to your neighborhood community. We recently volunteered with San Francisco’s Project Homeless Connect to help share aid to the homeless community in our immediate SoMa neighborhood which was a really cool way to get out of the office routine and build more understanding and appreciation for your local community.”

Why we like this:

Besides the bonding benefits, nothing boosts mood and morale in an office than helping others.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Find a local charitable organization that aligns with your company’s mission. At SnackNation, we’re all about health and nutrition, so we chose Feeding America, which helps fight food insecurity for millions of Americans.

2. Arrange a volunteer day during a Friday workday.

3. Make it voluntary – you’ll still get a massive turnout, and it will be more meaningful when people chose to donate their time.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, morale boosters don’t have to break the bank. There are tons of effective solutions that you can implement at little or no cost to you. So what are you waiting for?

Have a great idea that you don’t see above? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to hear it.

Free bonus: Download a cheatsheet of our Top 50 Fun Office Games and Activities That Make Work Awesome. Easily save it on your computer for quick reference or print it out the next time you want to plan a fun event for your coworkers.