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Stuck In an Office Rut? Here are 5 Ideas to Uplift Your Office Morale

Is your office in a rut of negativity? Is it difficult for your office to shake the spirit of moaning? Then it sounds like your office is lacking office morale. The Gallup Organization estimated that there are 22 million actively disengaged employees costing the economy as much as $350 billion dollars per year in lost productivity including absenteeism, illness, and other low morale issues.

Luckily for them, an Office Ninja is just the person to provide a boost for the company.

A disclaimer before we begin, though: no person can change an individual’s brain chemistry. It sounds silly to even say that, but it’s an important reminder. Office Ninjas can help to create a positive place for employees. In the words of wise Ninja Jennifer M., “You can’t convince people that they’re happy. Happiness comes from within.”

And it’s true. Studies show employees who like their jobs are twice as likely to be reporting strong relationships, effective money management, good health and engagement in their communities and lives compared to those who feel disengaged and unhappy at work. Employees who dislike their jobs on the other hand, are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression.

The other thing Office Ninjas should know is that office ruts can be the result of working too hard. According to John Gaspari, a licensed clinical worker who specializes in employee morale and workplace issues, our brains are programmed to do well under pressure. Whether it’s the final play in a football game or a scramble to finish a project by midnight, we can do it if we enter survival mode. Here, the brain is more primitive and the higher functions recede or freeze up while we get to safety, so to speak.

The problem comes from staying in survival mode for too long. Over the course of a week or a month in this mode, there are lots of negative consequences for mental and physical health. Since this part of the brain doesn’t nurture creativity or innovation or even quality thinking, it leads to negative thoughts.

So what can a Ninja do? First up, you have to get everyone out of survival mode—but that’s easier said than done. While there’s no magical formula for job satisfaction or happiness, the good news is that there are ways to make the office a more positive place. Here are five tips.

1. Feng shui, please

feng shui

There’s nothing like a makeover to raise morale. It doesn’t even have to cost too much (or any) money. You can reassign seats frequently so that workers have new desk partners, keep the temperature between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and encourage remote work once or twice a week.

If your company is willing to shell out some money, encourage them to use smart strategies to cut down on noise. Loud noise raises our levels of epinephrine—a hormone that invokes the fight-or-flight response. Some strategies might be investing in noise-cancelling headphones, lining walls with sound-absorbent material, soaking up street sounds with thick curtains and white noise machines. If you’d like a more affordable option to “healthier” furniture, try buying standing desks that can adapt to your spaces. (Check these out.)

2. Get moving

get moving

Studies show that employees who participate in physical activity throughout the day tend to be more engaged and energetic on the job than those who stay glued to their chairs. Getting a move on throughout the workday improves overall cardiovascular health, provides a healthy distraction from stressful office situations, and can even enhance workers’ capacity to tolerate physiological stress.

There’s nothing like group accountability for fitness—you could encourage your company to buy pedometers or Fitbits (or just use a smartphone’s health app) to monitor how many steps employees take during work. To inject some fun, you can make it a mini competition where the employee with the most steps gets a small prize (as long as they also get their work done, of course!).

3. Celebrate work-anniversaries


Work anniversaries are a marker of your time together at a company. According to a survey from Globoforce, 82 percent of respondents would feel good if people noticed and recognized their work anniversary, with 36 percent of respondents even saying a work anniversary would make them feel valued. Ask employees how they’d like to celebrate and put the plans in motion. And if no one’s super interested, at least celebrate your company’s birthday. Cake for everyone!

4. Potlucks for good luck


What brings us together more than food? Food is great. Food at work, paid by work, is even better. Crowdsource ideas from the staff or choose a theme and have a little food party on a Wednesday. It breaks up the week, it’s relatively inexpensive and it lets people mingle. Encourage talk that isn’t about work and for people to stay there for half an hour or so before retreating back to work.

5. Work-appropriate love letters


How do you fight negativity? With positivity. Whether it’s artwork, company successes or letters of love, positive messages can make a real difference. As Ninja Karen S. said, “Several years ago when our morale was dipping, our team leaders had an idea for each of us to write something positive about each other. Those sentiments were then turned into a poster that could be hung in our office for low morale days. We could look at it and know that our colleagues each saw something positive in us.” Well said!

How do you boost morale in your office, Ninjas?


  1. Thanks everyone for sharing your great ideas!! We just celebrated #NationalDonutDay this morning with mini donuts from a local vendor – it’s amazing how a little surprise to start the days boosts everyone’s morale!

  2. Hey, OfficeNinjas – want to really help boost our morale? Make those AMAZING signs of yours available for download so we can print and hang them in our workspaces (starting with three on lead-in photo of this article)!

    1. It’s on our radar, Jules! Thanks so much for your feedback :)

  3. We have a Social Squad in my small office. We plan something monthly. Things we have done include: the “Dip-off”, a contest to see who makes the best dip. A cookie exchange in December. Compliment a Co-worker, employees wrote the compliment on one side and the the person’s name on the back. We tacked them to the cubicle walls and left them up for a couple of weeks. No cheating to see who it was for. When we took them down we made sure everyone had at least one compliment, if not, we wrote one. Then we handed them out to the recipients. It was a lot fun. And we will be doing office Olympics in August b

    1. These are wonderful ideas, Kathy! Thanks so much for sharing :)

  4. I love #4! During the summer, we switch to 4 10-hour work days to be able to enjoy a 3-day weekend. So on those extra long days, we host a “happy hour” at 3pm to stop, chat and enjoy a yummy (non-alcoholic) treat. It’s a great way to break up the day and connect with others.

    1. Such an awesome strategy Rachel! Who doesn’t love 3-day weekends? :)

  5. My office has a C.A.R.E team (Committee for the Appreciation and Recognition of Employees), a diverse group of volunteers who brainstorm ideas to keep office morale boosted and people feeling appreciated! Administration granted us a small budget and we coordinate a variety of monthly activities: large gatherings like potlucks & luncheons (May 5th “Cinco de Salsa”), and smaller activities like gifting fun desktop swag (rocks painted in company colors with “You Rock” notes) and silly things like scratch-and-win surprises (April 23rd “National Take A Chance Day”). We also created an Appreciation Zone: an open cabinet stocked with Thank You notes, pens, small treats, and trinkets – to acknowledge others’ efforts the staff are encouraged to pass out a goodie and/or write a quick note. A small acknowledgement can go a long way and brighten someone’s day.
    Compliments from staff and Administration have spread, now other offices are rolling-out their own C.A.R.E. teams too. I encourage everyone to C.A.R.E.!

    1. These are great activities Amy! It’s great to hear that you’re spreading the appreciation to other offices. Thanks for sharing :)

  6. I was having serious personal and professional problems which were really affecting my attitude and my behavior in a negative manner – so much so that I did not even want to be around me. In trying to find a way to make changes, I found a quote on the internet, printed it out and taped it to my monitor: “Today will never come again. Be a blessing. Be a friend. Encourage someone. Take time to care. Let your words heal, not wound.” Every day I make sure those words are reflected in my words, attitude, and action.

    1. What a great quote, Judith! Thank you so much for sharing it with us :)

  7. These are great! Sometimes people just need to feel appreciated….Tell them how much you appreciate their help and love being their Teammate. It’s little things that keep the morale and productivity up! :)

  8. Great article. Going through so many changes and stresses lately, I know my office needs a boost!

    1. Thanks Julie! We hope some of these suggestions can help. Please let us know if you successfully implement any of these strategies, or if you come up with any of your own :)

  9. Wonderful article!! We struggle with morale amongst our immediate team and I will bring this article to review as a group at our next team building meeting.
    Tons of great ideas and suggestions in this, thank you for posting!!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind feedback Nicole! Please let us know how it goes if your office starts to implement any of these strategies :)

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