Boosting Employee Experience and Morale in Uncertain Times

As we start to move towards returning to the workplace and professional routines we were used to before lockdown, how do we bring teams back together cohesively after some of them have spent months working apart?

Furthermore, with so much speculation about the economy and recession, how do we boost morale and keep employees positive and motivated whilst staying mindful of budgetary restraints?

We put this question to some of the local clients and HR experts we work with and had some fantastic responses. Here are some of the ideas put forward:

Volunteering Day

Giving colleagues the opportunity to “give back” during their working day can be an amazing way to bring teams together for a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

It doesn’t cost anything other than what would usually be working time, so it’s worth considering if it might be an option either to close the office for the day or send people to volunteer in two groups on separate days (or do it at a weekend and give each employee an extra day of leave to use when they choose).

Encourage employees to get involved in suggesting the voluntary activity. They will often know of some fantastic local organisations or causes that would benefit from voluntary help, and it could be a great way of developing a long-term community engagement project for your business.

Lunchtime BBQ / Picnic

Barbecue season may be on its way out and dining al fresco may not be practical where you don’t have outside space. But agreeing to pause and eat together can be a great way of reuniting people. If you have room to rustle up some burgers, it can be a fantastic event for the office to look forward to each year. But here are three additional ideas which are great fun, even if you only have access to a fridge and a microwave.

Potluck lunch – employees bring along their own culinary creations or contributions for a shared buffet.

Outside catering – New lunch spot opened in town? Make an event of trying it out by treating the team to their favourite sandwiches.

Lunchtime social – everyone brings their own lunch, but instead of taking a break at different times, the office “closes” for an agreed thirty minutes or hour and the team gather away from desks to eat and chat together. Sit in a circle rather than smaller groups and consider a focal point for discussion or an activity such as a short-themed quiz.

Holiday “Scratch cards”

An unexpected early finish is always well-received but is a very cost-effective bonus which is likely to have very little financial impact on the business.

Have a handful of “time-off treats” ready as spontaneous rewards for good news and positive achievements. Scratch cards are fantastic, but even a simple lucky dip or a series of mystery envelopes would do the trick.

Vary the prizes; anything from being able to come in late in the morning, to an extended lunch break, to a full extra day of annual leave.

Appreciation Communication

Remember that recognition doesn’t always need to take the shape of prizes and can be even more meaningful when it doesn’t cost anything. Demonstrations of appreciation through colleague nomination schemes, congratulatory noticeboards and the circulation of glowing customer testimonials can be extremely valuable ways of acknowledging excellent work and sharing positive news throughout the business. You could even get creative with a corner of the office and design a bright, bold and colourful wall celebrating the achievements, ideas and contributions of the team.

Ask and Involve

Some of the best ideas for ways of saying “thank you” can come from employees themselves, so don’t forget to involve them in the implementation of any new reward, bonus or recognition schemes.

They may also have some excellent suggestions for activities to promote employee engagement, health and wellbeing.

Create an open, inclusive and approachable conversation within the business which encourages people to contribute their ideas, thoughts and feedback about initiatives that they would enjoy and participate in.


These are just a few of the brilliant suggestions we received when we put the topic to our local network of HR experts and business owners.

As an independent recruitment business, Vanilla works closely with HR teams across the East Midlands region. We have developed a collaborative community of local HR professionals who meet for monthly peer-to-peer virtual learning sessions via our “HR Huddle” events. If you work in HR and would like to join the conversation, we would love to hear from you. Email for further information.