Careers in construction are exciting and rewarding, but they can also be physically and emotionally demanding. Project managers must keep this in mind and do what they can to boost their team’s morale when needed.
Keeping a positive attitude on the job can significantly impact productivity and employee retention. It helps to be aware of what can contribute to low morale. Project managers can use several methods to boost their team when these challenges do come up.
Causes for Low Morale
Many things can contribute to low morale around a construction site. Unfortunately, some employees may have influences outside of work that increase their stress levels. Project managers may not be able to directly control these issues, but they can work to improve conditions on-site and offer support. Low morale within a construction team is often the result of a few negative influences that affect the entire group.
For example, conflicts and disputes between employees can leave everyone watching their step. This tension creates unnecessary stress, which increases the likelihood of accidents. An excessive number of hazards around the project site has a similar effect, causing employees to be constantly on edge.
Shifts in regular work routines, uncertainty and persistent overtime are also significant contributors to low morale. One monumental example of this is the COVID-19 pandemic, which left construction teams all over the country incredibly stressed. There was uncertainty surrounding the pandemic itself and whether work would be able to continue.
Even when construction teams could get back on the job, many were left frustrated over new legal issues and supply chain disruptions. Skyrocketing demand for new projects is also putting pressure and strain on workers.
Luckily, there are some great ways project managers can improve team morale, no matter the challenges their project is facing. They could use all these strategies or only a couple of them, depending on the needs of their unique team.
1. Upgrade Tools and Software
Tools might not be the first thing that comes to mind when improving morale. However, old products and glitchy software add unnecessary frustration in the workplace. Little things can go a long way. When employees have to work with dated construction gear or equipment that is no longer in good condition, they may feel they don’t have the necessary means to do their jobs. At the least, employees will feel appreciated when project managers upgrade the tools and gear they work with every day. These items will help employees do their jobs better, as well.
2. Prioritize Break Time
Managers and employees alike can often struggle to take adequate breaks. This is especially common on projects with intense schedules or deadlines. However, taking time to relax and refuel is crucial to maintaining a healthy and productive construction site. Project managers can improve morale on their team by encouraging employees to take advantage of their break time.
Taking breaks may sound like it would diminish productivity. However, scientists have found that even small ones can help boost productivity and mood throughout the workday. Taking time to step away from work now and then allows the brain to refresh.
In construction, prioritizing adequate break time also allows employees to physically relax and refresh as well, which can help prevent injuries. Additionally, encouraging downtime now and then will help workers feel that project managers care about their well-being, which builds trust.
3. Encourage Promotions
One of the most demoralizing feelings in any job is the sense that it is a career that leads to nowhere. In construction, the labor shortage means there is more pressure on every employee. Project managers can help by creating a clear path to promotion and honoring advancements when employees have earned them. Seeing others succeed and be recognized for their hard work will offer positive reinforcement and motivation to all workers.
4. Offer Benefits and a Bonus Program
Improving team morale is all about giving employees something to look forward to and showing that leadership supports them. A benefits package and bonus program are both key to these goals. It is important to remember that people have a life outside of work – they may have a family to support or school loans to pay off. Financial stress can be a major contributor to poor morale. In fact, studies have found that it can cost employers billions of dollars in diminished productivity every week.
Even a modest set of benefits will go a long way toward improving the mood on-site. Project managers will be helping remove stress, allowing employees to be more positive on the job.
5. Schedule Off-Hours Relaxation Time
Everyone enjoys work more when they feel like they are with their friends. Fostering healthy colleague relationships within construction teams can help reduce on-site stress, increase trust and improve morale. A great way to instantly cut back on pressure and get everyone in a good mood is to schedule a recreational activity outside of work hours.
This could be as simple as happy hour after a shift ends or as major as a weekend camping trip after a big project wraps up. Project managers can ask their team for ideas of things they might like to do for fun. Off-hours events and activities can be even more effective at boosting morale if some or all of the cost is covered. This is a nice gesture to show employees that leadership appreciates their hard work.
6. Offer Training and Education Programs
Sometimes employees need something to stimulate motivation rather than relax feelings of stress. Team morale may decline if people don’t feel they are being challenged or given any opportunities to grow, personally or professionally. Project managers can improve workers’ skill sets while empowering them to continue learning through training and education programs. This also helps fill the construction skills gap, which will have its own benefits.
For example, a project manager could set up a weekly training hour where employees could take a break from work and learn a new skill or topic. Similarly, a program to help new employees pay off school or craft training expenses could help bring in young hires. These strategies help boost employee morale by providing goals to work for and support for career growth.
7. Respect Work-Life Balance
One of the most common causes of poor employee morale is excessive time at work or overtime. Even if someone is not actively working overtime, they may be committing too much time and headspace to work. Examples include going home from work only to spend hours answering emails or phone calls or otherwise focusing on work-related tasks. Over an extended period, this can lead to a poor balance between work and family or personal commitments, which increases stress and reduces productivity.
Project managers can address work-life balance by building a workplace culture that encourages a healthy balance between on-site and off-site commitments. Reassure employees that it’s all right for emails to wait until they return to work in the morning. Being considerate about work-life balance and overtime will boost team morale and improve trust among team members.
8. Show Appreciation
Sometimes employees don’t need big gestures or major changes to improve their morale. Little acts from leadership can make a world of difference. Project managers need to remember to show appreciation to their workers whenever possible. Construction projects require extensive amounts of work and dedication, and everyone should feel like they contributed to the success. Helping employees feel valued on the job is one of the easiest and most important ways to improve morale.
Building Positive Construction Teams
The construction industry is a dedicated group of hardworking, skilled individuals. Preserving this community and fostering industry growth relies on project managers who support and appreciate their teams. Addressing poor morale on-site is a great step toward accomplishing that. Leaders who take action to boost their team’s spirits will have noticeably more productive, supportive work sites.