Many small business owners are struggling to stay afloat and are being forced to make tough decisions—such as instituting layoffs or budget cuts. In the wake of these decisions, office morale can dip as employees face uncertainty about their jobs. Better Business Bureau offers guidance for small business owners on how to keep office morale high in a tough economy.
The unemployment rate in the U.S. is already at a 26-year high and layoffs are still in the future for many small businesses. According to an August report by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, 14 percent of small business owners plan to cut staff in the coming months. Even for employees that survive a layoff, job uncertainty remains. Equifax reports that small business bankruptcies were up 81 percent in June over the previous year.
“Layoffs, budget cuts and the pressure of an unstable economy can cause office morale to dip,” said Alison Southwick, BBB spokesperson. “When employees aren’t happy and morale is low, productivity suffers, resulting in a downward spiral for an already struggling business owner.”
BBB offers the following advice to small business owners on how to maintain office morale in a tough economy:
• Enlist management in setting the right tone. In the wake of layoffs and budget cuts, it can be difficult to strike the right tone that will inspire trust with employees. Small business owners and management need to be on the same page in expressing optimism for the future.
• Acknowledge individual achievements. When morale is low it’s more important than ever to encourage employees and recognize the work that they do. Consider starting an Employee of the Month program or rewarding employees for completing projects or meeting goals.
• Be open and listen. Talk to employees and listen to their concerns and recommendations. Sometimes little things can have a big impact on office morale; talk to employees to find out what keeps them happy and what they would like to change around the office. Keeping the lines of communication open with employees can also help quell rumors that can undermine office morale.
• Provide an extra day off or a flexible schedule option. Especially around the holidays, employees will appreciate an extra day off, the opportunity to work from home or flexible hours.
• Keep the holiday party, but lose the excess. Many businesses have had to cut office parties altogether because of budget concerns, but events like office parties are a way to show appreciation, boost camaraderie and inject levity. Consider less expensive options for a party such as hosting a holiday lunch instead of a dinner or instituting a volunteer day to get everyone out of the office and working together.
For more advice on managing a business in a tough economy, visit www.bbb.org