Money can’t buy happiness — or so the saying goes. Though the phrase might be considered a cliché by some, there’s a lot of truth in it – especially at work. While salary is an important factor in determining employee satisfaction, it’s not the only thing that matters. Your staff need access to a wide range of benefits, many of them not related to money at all. When underperforming employees can cost managers up to full day a week in time spent addressing subpar work, it’s worth investing in strategies that boost employee motivation.

So what else can employers do to keep their staff happy and boost workforce motivation?

Luckily, this question has been top of mind for researchers over the years and there have been many new studies on the issue. Employers can now lean on the latest data points and employee motivational theories to invest in a happy, healthy, and motivated workforce. Keep reading to learn research-backed ways to keep your staff motivated for the long-term.

How to improve your current employee motivational strategies

No matter your company size, industry, or location – there are a variety of employee motivational strategies that can help you boost productivity.

1. Money matters – up to a certain point

To start, let’s go back to that question about money. Different studies have suggested that there may be a correlation between happiness and a certain minimum income – either $75,000 or $95,000, depending on which researchers you ask – but ultimately that amount is relative, depending on your lifestyle, upbringing, and personality.

“At the end of the day, we’re humans and we struggle with existential issues like what’s the meaning of life, and who am I? And those sort of questions don’t go away when you get a bunch of money," explains Brad Klontz, a financial therapist and psychology professor at Creighton University. 

Instead of focusing on a “magic number” to try to maximize staff motivation, make sure your salary bands are in line with industry standards. You want employees to feel they’re being compensated fairly, and have clear paths for growth within the company – so they’re less likely to lose their drive or jump ship.

2. Focus on preventing burnout

Employee burnout is no joke. A recent Gallup study found that about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout – which adds up to an additional $125 to $190 billion dollars a year in healthcare spending. It isn’t as simple as just offering more time off either – about 55% of American workers don’t use all of their vacation time.

Instead of offering more perks that employees may not use — like unlimited vacation days — find other ways to build work-life balance into your company culture. Test out initiatives like flexible work schedules, hybrid offices, summer Fridays, and company mental health days. These strategies encourage employees to step away from their desks and recharge, so they’re less likely to reach the burnout out.

Anti-burnout initiatives can even be simple as encouraging staff to turn off cameras during meetings on day a week to help fight Zoom fatigue, which can contribute to burnout by making employees feel like they need to be “always on.”

3. Invest in support systems

Additionally, look for other ways to make your employees’ lives easier by offering stipends for support systems they depend on — things like childcare, elder care, and meal planning. By simplifying your employees’ lives outside of work, you can clear up more headspace for them to be present and productive at work.

Additionally, a 2020 DoorDash study found that 85% of employees agreed regular food delivery would increase their job satisfaction, suggesting that a little support can go a long way towards boosting team morale. DashPass for Work makes it easy for employees to get meals delivered, as well as basics like diapers, health and beauty items, and pantry staples – saving them time and energy.

4. Strengthen relationships

With remote work on the rise, employees are feeling more disconnected than ever. According to a recent survey, 43% of employees say that the thing they miss most about the office are the “watercooler chats,” i.e. the time to connect casually with their coworkers. Luckily, there are lots of ways to bring your staff together and raise morale and motivation, even when remote.

Sponsor regular group activities, like a remote wine tasting event or a digital company book club, and consider planning regular no-work team lunches or events for people to come together outside of their daily tasks. These gatherings are about more than just small talk, they’re about building team connections. A 2015 Cornell study found that encouraging employees to eat meals together may result in increased productivity, too.

For team meals, DoorDash for Work makes it easy to get food delivered to a remote staff. Start an expensed meals plan for your team: simply set a budget, and let employees order the team lunch of their choice.


5. Turn discounts and rewards into ongoing appreciation

While staff discounts and rewards are a nice benefit, they unfortunately don’t have a massive impact on employee motivation. Research shows that we can get a slight boost in happiness when our spending habits fit our personality – such as an introvert spending money on a new book, or an extrovert spending money on going out to a bar with friends. So while employee discounts might be useful, they likely aren’t making a big contribution to overall employee satisfaction.

Instead of limited discounts or one-off rewards, invest in ongoing employee appreciation efforts that celebrate your staff regularly. Small programs like “employee of the month” awards, team lunches, and thoughtful gifts can go a long way in sustaining employee motivation.

6. Offer individualized wellness benefits

What does employee wellness look like in 2021? While there are a lot of new trends emerging like yoga and meditation apps, not all wellness benefits are created equal. Wellness is an incredibly personal pursuit, and it’s best to let employees choose what works best for their individual minds and bodies. For example, while yoga and meditation may be great for some, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea – some people thrive on intense workouts, like CrossFit.

However your employees choose to pursue their own definition of wellness, it’s important to ensure that your employee wellness program consists of several key components: nutrition, stress reduction, behavior modification programs, health risk assessments, health screenings, physical fitness, vaccination clinics, mental health services, education programs, and more.

7. Help employees connect to a bigger purpose

This is probably the most important — but also the most challenging — part of driving employee motivation: helping employees connect to a bigger purpose. “When it comes to finding fulfillment at work, the way in which you think about your job is key,” says Tracy Brower, a socialist exploring perspectives on work-life and fulfillment and the author of The Secrets to Happiness at Work.

You may not be able to change much about the day to day of your staff’s work, but you can help them connect to why it’s important. For many companies, this can be as simple as reminding employees about the real people that benefit from their work. For example, for an insurance company this could be highlighting how insurance customers are able to rebuild their lives after a natural disaster. Or, for a wholesale platform it could be taking pride in how your app supports and empowers thousands of small business owners across the country.

It’s not necessarily about getting everyone to “love” what they do, since that can be a lofty bar. It’s more about getting employees to see the value in their work – and take pride in that. Once you connect to your company’s purpose, communicate it loud and clear so that employees can learn on your bigger mission and find motivation when the days get tough.

Building a better benefits package

Ultimately, there are a variety of ways to build out your comprehensive employee benefits package to support employee motivation, which all can be tailored to your specific business and team. Explore the suite of DoorDash for Work products, which have all been designed with employee satisfaction in mind, and choose the offerings that best support your business. 

As you grow and scale your company's motivational efforts, make sure to schedule check-ins to get feedback from your employees on what’s working and what’s not. They’re a valuable source of input for building a stronger, more efficient workplace.

Also, don’t forget to track your efforts so that you can measure progress over time. The ROI of DoorDash for Work is a great tool you can use to determine if your benefits package is actually designed to grow your business. Download the guide today to learn how to improve your benefits and level up your employee motivational strategies.


Ali Cottong

Ali Cottong is a freelance content marketer with a wide range of experience crafting content and strategy for brands that include a world-renowned design agency, a men's artisan boot company, that app you use to request money on your phone, and more. Ali originally earned her nerd cred as a world-class Quidditch player and has competed in the Quidditch World Cup twice. She currently lives in Oakland where she's traded her broomstick in for a bike.