A great work environment with smart, engaged and social co-workers is more important to me than a huge paycheck! Maybe that is because I am a Gen-Xer, the generation smack dab between Millennials and Baby Boomers.
You don’t have to be fresh out of college or grad school to appreciate a great office experience. Not only are the employees happier, but the good companies with engaged employees enjoy 27% higher profits, 50% higher customer loyalty and 38% higher productivity levels than average businesses. Disengaged and unhappy employees can cost the economy $500 billion every year.
Clearly, motivated employees are engaged employees, but what actually drives employee motivation? You may be surprised, but it’s not all about the money. Here are 5 important employee motivators:
1. Customized work hours
Sitting at a desk from 9 to 5, elbow to elbow with others, five days a week, is not the best idea - unless you want burnt out employees. Allowing employees to work from home a specific number of hours per month for ‘flex-time’ yields more optimal work outcomes in the long run.
Everyone should be given a chance to work from their home office because it provides the flexibility, creativity and freedom that some employees need in order to be the most productive. It also makes actual office time more enjoyable. I work at a marketing company that has a 4-day work week with the option to flex out up to 40 hours a month. It seems to be the sweet spot.
2. Office space options
Sometimes busy offices can disrupt your flow even if you’re wearing headphones. Designating a “quiet room” as a place employees can go to work is a wise move, especially for those who are easily distracted or get annoyed with too much talking.
Providing other relaxing or fun spaces is key, too. Your company doesn’t have to be Google to provide bean bag chairs, Legos, video games, puzzles and a slide. OK, maybe the slide is pushing it.
3. Organized events
The possibilities are endless. Anything that builds camaraderie or gets people socializing breaks up the monotony of a day. For example, I just participated in a healthy cooking contest where every employee got to vote for their favorite dish. The winner scored a free pair of sunglasses.
Another fun thing? Sports. In a few weeks, those who signed up are going to catch a local baseball game and some dinner on the company’s dime.
We also get the opportunity to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House once a month to help families whose children are receiving medical care. It’s those kinds of things that bring people together on many different levels.
4. Encourage exercise
Sometimes you need to form partnerships and offer up free things. Partner with a local fitness club to conduct a free monthly class at your place of business. Recently, I participated in a 30-minute yoga session with my colleagues, led by an instructor who brought yoga mats and taught the class outside. We all enjoyed it immensely. It not only made us feel more relaxed and ready to take on the work day, it inspired some of us to start doing yoga once a week during break times.
Another idea is to offer free gym memberships to employees. In order to retain individual membership, employees need to visit a specified number of times per month. More and more companies are realizing that working long days can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which can lead to mental health impacting physical health.
5. Provide food
No one likes a ‘hangry’ employee. But everyone likes food! If you’re a manager, why not treat your staff to breakfast once in a while? Bring in anything that would suit your team, like donuts, fruit, waffles, burritos, etc. Or let teams decide how to spend incentive money for the whole group at least once a month. Meals always bring people together, even at work.
Hiring the right people who fit your company’s culture is important, but so is listening to employees’ needs about what they value in their work environment and space. Why should you care about your company’s emotional culture? This quote from a Fast Company article sums it up perfectly:
"Employees who felt they worked in a loving, caring culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and teamwork," write researchers Sigal Barsade and Olivia O’Neill in Harvard Business Review. “They show up for work more often and their attitude impacts relationships with clients.”
I completely agree. A good company culture is not something that can be faked, either. It has to feel genuine. Be genuine. It starts with the people and radiates outward. It doesn’t matter what generation you’re from.