These are trying times for small businesses all over the world. While we will recover from the pandemic, it’s going to be a difficult road ahead for many smaller businesses and their employees. However, there are several small things you can try to help improve morale that won’t necessarily have to cost a lot of money.

Check out the suggestions below and see if they make sense in the context of your small business:

1. Wear symbols of solidarity

Thankfully, uniforms and dress codes are not the only ways you can encourage employees to have a unified identity and sense of purpose. Even things as mundane as lanyards, official hoodies, company-branded PPEs, or even simple silicone wristbands can go a long way into helping everyone in the workplace feel that they are part of the same team.

Silicone wristbands are particularly great for this, as they aren’t only affordable and highly customizable, they can match virtually any dress code. This means the folks in suits at the office can wear the same bands as the workers in overalls down at the warehouse. Check out your options for custom wristband creation.

2. Let people work from home if it makes sense

As more people are starting to learn in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, commuting to work isn’t always necessary. Working from home can encourage many employees to be more productive while affording them a better work-life balance. If an employee’s physical presence isn’t strictly necessary, then consider allowing them to work from home if they so wish.

3. Weed out bullies

As the old saying goes, people don’t quit jobs – they quit their boss. And to some extent, they quit their toxic coworkers. A Harvard Business School study suggests that, in most cases, it’s not worth retaining a toxic worker, even if they otherwise perform well due to the negative effects they have on the productivity of other people around them. Not only that, but they also have the potential to negatively influence your workplace culture and steer it away from your organization’s vision.

4. Offer paid sick days

While paid time off for illness is mandated in most countries in the world, there are still many holdouts – particularly the United States. If your business is in a jurisdiction where paid time off for illness isn’t mandated, you can greatly increase the morale of your employees over your competitors simply by offering it.

5. Don’t boast about growth — unless you’re prepared to share it

Boasting about how much your business is earning without showing your employees any appreciation through bonuses and incentives is an excellent way to destroy morale. Given the choice, it may be better to not say anything about the state of the business than to brag about how well it’s doing without giving your employees a concrete reason to celebrate. Otherwise, it’s just tantamount to thanking them for making you rich, which is never something a well-adjusted self-respecting employee wants to hear.

6. Offer unconditional monetary gifts

According to a 2013 Harvard Business Review study, unconditional and unexpected cash gifts can help squeeze out about as much productivity from a worker as hiring an extra employee. So instead of giving them a plaque of appreciation or a company watch, consider just giving employees the money you would have otherwise spent on these knick-knacks. Chances are, that will be the best possible use of the money if better motivation is the goal.

7. Don’t force employees to go to work during calamities

If there’s a hurricane or a pandemic outside, think twice before you compel your employees to commute to work. Compelling your employees to work during such times will only build resentment, especially if their jobs do not require their presence or are not necessarily essential to the community. Encouraging them to stay home if there is a risk to their health (without accompanying veiled threats to their job security) can go a long way into making them feel valued, which can, in turn, encourage better productivity down the road.

8. Reduce your dependence on email and phone calls

A UK study found that 92% of workers experienced a spike in blood pressure and heart rates when they receive a work email or phone call. While you might not be able to totally eliminate either emails or phone use in day-to-day life, using workflow management systems such as Trello, Basecamp, Slack, or Asana can be used to reduce this impact.

In this post-pandemic context, it’s important to understand that employee morale is invariably linked to productivity, and ultimately, the viability of any small business. We hope these tips will not only help you have happier employees, but also more loyal, productive, and innovative ones as well.