Employees are your company’s life force. Not only are workers your company's most valuable asset, but they are crucial to business continuity and success. This is why it's so critical for them to stay motivated and productive, especially considering all the current stressors of simply existing in our current climate. 

Employees that don’t feel supported by their company or part of a company that has charismatic leadership are likely to leave their job. In fact, a 2021 Microsoft survey revealed 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their employer this year. For a company to grow, everyone needs to be on the same team and striving to reach the same goal. Leadership sets the tone for a business and builds a company culture that can motivate employees or on the flip side, create a toxic work environment. While employee motivation is not something that happens on its own, it's something that company leaders need to encourage, nurture, and actively work on. Here are a few ways leaders can take steps to support employees:

What are some recent trends that could actually be toxic for your work environment?

The Work Family

In recent years there has been a workplace trend on the rise: a work family. Many organizations pride themselves on being close-knit, “like a family". In this type of workplace dynamic employees are often willing to help each other on projects although it's not in their job description. The trouble with this kind of approach is the lack of work-life balance and employees often have too much on their plate. In addition, we do not communicate with family members in a professional way, which can lead to high emotions and less respectful ways of communicating. This kind of "family vibe" can quickly promote a toxic work environment in which employees have their boundaries pushed.

"We're a family" dynamic at workplaces is the toxic sunny side of violated boundaries, lower pay for long hours, and a way for mediocre managers to encourage prioritizing company interests over employees’ needs. An employee's family doesn't value them based on how much they produce and relationships often last a lifetime. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average tenure of an employee today is about four years.

Pressuring employees to spend the limited amount of time they have to themselves in after-hours bonding activities with colleagues or an expectation that they’ll be available for calls or on slack, often creates the opposite effect than was originally intended. This becomes increasingly problematic for team members that have obligations outside of work like child-care. In fact, in a recent DoorDash survey 53% of those surveyed who have children said they’ve had at least one work failure, including missing a deadline, a call, or other work matter, due to a need to prep food for themselves or family. This means adding after-hours team bonding to their to-do list only makes it more stressful for many employees.

Compelling leaders focus on giving their employees the time and space they need to live their lives. This is where the language and the approach used to encourage a healthy work-life balance comes in. Instead of abiding by a toxic family narrative, simply refer to them as "your team". Retaining your team and encouraging them to do their best work, starts with understanding their needs and tailoring your benefits to support them. Here are a few ideas to include in your benefits package:

Paid Medical Leave

It's a fact, everyone at one point or another will get sick. When a serious health condition prevents employees from working or when they need to take time to care for a family member this is a benefit they’ll make good use of and be grateful for. By paying for your team's medical leave you are offering them stability and peace of mind.

No-email policy on weekends

With the rise of technology, it's becoming increasingly difficult for everyone to disconnect from work during evenings and weekends. A recent study found that working long hours has been linked with depression, anxiety, and in some cases coronary heart disease. Having time to relax and recover during weekends and having enough downtime is crucial to improved job performance and being satisfied at work. Implementing a no-email policy on weekends is one of the most effective ways to ensure your employees have a healthier work-life balance. By promoting this policy, you ensure you are not interfering with your team's time to recharge, and they will come back fresh and ready to get back in the swing of things after the weekend.

Free/subsidized food delivery

In recent years, food delivery has been one of the most sought-after benefits by employees. A recent DoorDash for Work survey found that 82% of those surveyed said they’d feel more satisfied at work if their company offered free food delivery cards. Including a food delivery service as part of your benefits package can help you keep retention high as well as attract top talent. Membership services like DashPass for Work enable you to offer employees $0 delivery fees and reduced service fees on eligible orders.

Excessive Collaboration

Now with the new normal and hybrid workflows, it can be easy for companies to seek excessive collaboration within their teams. In the information age, there's a fine line between effectively communicating with your team and unnecessarily overwhelming them with Zoom meetings, calls, and emails. Excessive collaboration is a toxic workplace trend that's been on the rise since before the pandemic but has become the norm in recent times. 

Employees often find themselves working between five to eight extra hours per week, not only to be able to complete their tasks but also to attend numerous meetings in various shapes and forms. In fact, when collaboration overload goes past certain thresholds, it's very likely for a worker to become burnt out and ultimately leave the organization.

So what can companies do to avoid collaborating excessively? Rob Cross, an associate professor of global leadership at Babson College has studied the phenomenon of collaboration overload for more than 20 years. In his book, “Beyond Collaboration Overload: How to Work Smarter, Get Ahead, and Restore Your Well-Being”, he states how high performers collaborate differently. High performing employees stand out from average performers at companies because they consistently exceed expectations, are skilled at what they do, demonstrate exceptional effort, and increase their efficiency at work by 18%-24%. Additionally, high performers have excellent time management skills and know this is a limited resource to work with. This is why they refrain from taking unnecessary meetings and only schedule the ones they know are going to be productive and will help them to efficiently tackle tasks on their to-do list. 

The main takeaway is high performers are very purposeful in the way they engage with others which ultimately buys them an extra day per week. This means scheduling meetings that cram in a series of 30-minute meetings into 90 minutes is unhelpful because this leads your team to having a longer to-do list with time wasted in the meeting instead of spent on execution. Cross also states one of the solutions to hyper collaboration comes down to employees’ mindsets. 

“When I started [the research for the book], I was convinced that the enemy was all external, like email and time zones and nasty bosses. But all these interviews convinced me that 50% or more of the problem is with us.”

As humans, we often jump at the chance of a new opportunity even at times that we are aware we shouldn't take it on. And much like in the family environment, constantly trying to be supportive and collaborative to coworkers often means saying yes to too many projects, even ones that may yield low returns. Taking the time to discuss with your employees how much they can take on is a great way to ensure they don't become overwhelmed. Leadership can also spend these meetings prioritizing tasks so employees know what they should be focusing on.

Hustle Culture

The celebration of busyness perpetuates a toxic work environment and actually only decreases productivity. During the last 20 years hustle culture has become the motto people live by to "take control of their destiny" and “make dreams come true”. The truth is hustle culture is burning workers out. Add into the mix almost two years of staying at home with your personal and work life trapped in the same space and it's a perfect storm to kill motivation and ultimately company growth. 

Working from home has blurred the lines between the time people dedicate to their job and their personal lives. Employees that are tired, less motivated, or struggling to stay focused have the emblematic signs of being burned out. In fact, a recent Indeed survey found that 67% of respondents believe that burnout has gotten worse over the course of the pandemic. Even with the vaccine, uncertainty regarding the future is not going away, nor is your employees’ workload.


What are some ways leaders can shape culture to improve motivation?

Motivation strategies grounded in negative behaviors, like self-shaming, overwrought competitiveness, and excessive pressure don't work when it comes to long-term productivity. A 2019 Frontiers In Psychology study found that coping skills like hope, resilience, optimism, and self-efficacy reduce burnout at work. When employees are able to implement these coping skills into their workday, they’ll feel much more motivated and become more productive. 

1. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a valuable soft skill that helps improve communication, problem-solving, and relationships. This is especially sought after at workplaces that base their workflows on teamwork. By encouraging employees to practice emotional intelligence you are improving your company's psychological capital over time. Practicing emotional intelligence in the workplace begins with each individual. It means every member of your company takes the time to work on self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. What’s a long-term approach to boosting motivation in a difficult work environment?

2. Gratitude

With approaches to hybrid workflows and full return to workplaces being reassessed, HR professionals, consultants, and analysts are doing their best to find new ways to engage, retain, and keep employees motivated. Companies that have a culture of gratitude have been the ones to provide a workplace experience employees are satisfied with.

The challenge with gratitude is that it's personal and when leaders are the ones guiding the way, it's about how intentional and genuine they are about it. When it's done right, gratitude in an employee's experience can make them feel a stronger connection to their team and their company.

A favorite way for many people to unplug or “brain dump” any stressors they may be facing is writing in a journal. A gratitude journal or doing gratitude exercises like writing 10 things they're grateful about before starting their work day, has a positive impact on your employees' mindsets.  Another way to incorporate more gratitude practices into your company is to set up regular times to thank your team for their hard work, such as choosing one person to recognize in a meeting for their hard work that week. Practicing gratitude also helps reduce aggression, improve mental health, boost self-esteem, and even improve sleep. Giving gratitude journals to your employees as a gift is a great way to show them they are appreciated.

3. Stay Flexible

With the new normal, and workplace plans constantly changing due to changes in CDC guidelines, making company goals come to fruition will face hiccups and strategies will need to be reworked. At this point, expecting the unexpected is the wisest course of action. That not only goes for overall company achievements but is important to implement this kind of flexibility to employees’ work. Sometimes KPIs need to be adjusted or timelines for projects need to be reset based on unexpected circumstances.

With the ongoing global circumstances, flexibility has become one of the most coveted benefits a company can offer its employees. Having both flexible workplace arrangements as well as flexibility within our work environment is a must for many. For instance, a recent DoorDash survey found 80% of employees consider the ability to eat at any time one of the top advantages of working from home. Consider allowing employees to take a quick 15 minute break whenever they need or adding regularly scheduled no-meeting break time to their calendars. This is especially important when working with coworkers in different time zones who might forget when their lunch break is.

However, to create a flexible work environment that is efficient, you must look into the available tools that support alternative ways of working and how productivity will be measured. When employees feel like their work is being fairly assessed, they’ll become more confident and motivated.

4. Boost Confidence Recalling Past Wins

More and more businesses are delving into New Age theories and practices every day. From the law of attraction, crystals and lunar cycles, to visualization, and manifestation, implementing beliefs that are related to unconventional spiritual beliefs might come perilously close to "woo-woo" coaching territory. That does not mean these spiritual components should enter the workplace, but that businesses are incorporating a more psychological, supportive mindset to the more macho, rigid framework seen in the past.

When leadership takes time to reflect on employees' accomplishments and find ways to emotionally support and encourage employees,  it leads to increased confidence as well as motivation to achieve bigger tasks. Leadership shouldn’t only set this as an intention, but create processes and moments to incorporate this support mindset into their business.

5. Lunch With Executives

CEOs and business leaders often have packed schedules with in-person meetings. However, everyone needs to eat and sharing a meal is a great opportunity for executives to connect with team members. In fact, a Cornell University study of firehouses found that squads that ate together performed better than other firefighters who dined separately. The study’s author says, “From an evolutionary anthropology perspective, eating together has a long, primal tradition as a kind of social glue. That seems to continue in today’s workplace.”

Not only does lunch with executives increase employees’ sense of community, itenables leaders to get to know team members better, improving both motivation and ultimately productivity. In fact, a Harvard Medical School study found that employees who are told their work is appreciated are 50% more productive on the job, compared to those who don’t feel valued. And giving employees facetime with their executives helps your entire business see each other as people, increasing empathy and comradery across your organization.

With the new normal and hybrid workflows, it's crucial for lunch with company leaders to include both remote and in-office employees. Using DoorDash Group Orders everyone can easily add the dish they want to the group's shopping cart while eating together or those from home can order in Expensed Meals and join the meeting through zoom.


6. Establishing Company Norms For Work-Life Balance 

In the current "turnover tsunami" one of the most important aspects employees consider when accepting a new job is company culture. After being locked in for over a year, people are looking for a company culture that empowers employees to have a healthy work-life balance. In fact, In a Glassdoor survey, 77% of job-seekers said they consider a company’s culture before applying for a position—and 65% of employees said it’s one of their main reasons for staying at a job. Understanding that work is a part of life will be crucial for companies to stay competitive and attract top talent. 

An important way to shape culture is to provide a benefits package that reflects your corporation’s values. Offering benefits that go above and beyond traditional ones like health insurance and retirement plans is key to keep employees motivated and ensure retention. In fact, 78% of employees say they’re more likely to stay with an employer because of their benefits program. By adding delivery-based perks like DashPass for Work, you are improving your employees' work-life balance and boosting their motivation.

In recent years, food-based benefits have become increasingly sought-after by employees. Why? Preparing a meal for yourself (and your family if you have one) is time-consuming. Taking this task off your employees’ to-do list can help relieve stress. ​​In a recent DoorDash survey, 85% of employees said regular food delivery would increase their job satisfaction. 

Why Employee Motivation is Especially Relevant Today

With retention being at an all-time low and experts calling it “The Great Resignation”, you want to make sure your employees stay motivated and happy. While it's becoming a cultural norm to congratulate people for quitting their jobs instead of getting one because of the awareness growing around toxic workplaces, it’s more important than ever to keep your employees motivated and satisfied in the workplace. 

Drafting and implementing an effective employee motivation strategy is key to attract top talent and ultimately stay competitive in the current job market. In their Evolving the Employee Experience in 2021 Webinar, DoorDash and Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) share a new approach to engaging and supporting employees. Learn tips about the best practices to keep your employees motivated, increasing retention, and avoiding burnout in the workplace.

Evolving the Employee Experience in 2021

Kristen Van Nest

Kristen Van Nest is an L.A.-based freelance B2B writer with bylines in Forbes, HuffPost, and VentureBeat to name a few. She specializes in market trends and strategies businesses can use to grow. Her free time is spent ordering in dumplings and honeycomb ice cream and writing funny content to make people laugh.