Operating a Business

How To Motivate Lazy Employees: 20 Ways

Written By: Dominic Beaulieu
Reviewed by: Mike Reyes
Last Updated February 3, 2023

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a pug that could motivate lazy employees

Frustrated trying to motivate lazy employees? Indeed, employee motivation is something many entrepreneurs, business owners, and HR managers tend to struggle with. Only 15% of employees worldwide feel engaged in the workplace. This is an obvious sign that many companies don’t know how or don’t care to motivate and engage their employees.

While motivation is very abstract, it has many practical aspects. In other words, increasing employee engagement and motivation is possible – and necessary. Hence, here are the twenty best ways how to motivate employees.

What Motivates Lazy Employees

To effectively use the techniques in this article, it is first necessary to understand what motivates employees. According to a study carried out by TINYpulse, employees are motivated by:

  • Camaraderie, peer motivation (20%)
  • Intrinsic desire to do a good job (17%)
  • Feeling encouraged and recognized (13%)
  • Having a real impact (10%)
  • Growing professionally (8%)
  • Meeting client/customer needs (8%)
  • Money and benefits (7%)
  • Positive supervisor/sr. management (4%)
  • Believe in the company/product (4%)
  • Other (9%)

By focusing on the top motivators on this list, it will be much easier to stimulate and motivate employees. Instead of only focusing on money (often considered the best motivator), it’s worth looking at other sources of motivation and inspiration for employees. The following methods do precisely that.

#1 Setting Up Good Working Conditions

Without a doubt, setting up good working conditions is necessary for any company. But if it’s done right, it could even become a motivated lazy employee. Employees feel valued and respected when they feel comfortable working in the office (or at home, if they are remote employees). Everybody wants to know that their needs are satisfied (e.g., comfortable chairs, snacks, drinks, latest tech, etc.)

Likewise, good working conditions can make employees enjoy their work more. Once they feel happier in the workplace, they will likely start conversations with their colleagues to share positive emotions. This communication will further motivate them as they will now feel encouraged by peer motivation and the feeling of camaraderie.

#2 Respecting and Being Polite to Lazy Employees

Another noticeable thing is that it can be surprisingly important for employee motivation. Managers need to be polite and respectful towards their teams because it directly correlates with the positive supervisor or senior management aspect of motivation. Moreover, good management shows employees they are recognized and encouraged to work better.

Managers are also leaders, meaning it’s essential for them to set an example for others. If a manager promotes respect, other team members will follow suit. Collaboration and teamwork are essential for the success of any kind of business which is precisely why respecting each other is so crucial in the workspace. Toxic work culture can never be a positive thing for any company.

#3 Praising and Rewarding Employees

Much like respecting and being polite towards employees is a way to show that they are valued, praising and rewarding them can be a more direct form of appreciation. A simple “thank you” or “good job” can go a long way and can further help managers establish good relationships with their team members. Praising employees is also a part of developing positive supervisor management, so it’s essential for lazy employee motivation.

At the same time, rewards can be presented in different forms. Anything from personalized gifts to extra vacation days can be seen as a reward. Monthly bonuses and unique snacks, gift cards, and success parties – are all of these are just rewards presented in a different form. And all of these can be perfect for showing gratitude towards and appreciation of individual employees and entire teams and departments.

#4 Sharing Relevant Feedback

While communication plays a key role for businesses, feedback is a more specific part of communication that is not always treated seriously. Feedback allows employees to understand what and how they can improve to become more productive in the future. Everyone wants to grow professionally and simply do a good job. Moreover, when managers collect feedback, they show employees they are recognized and can make a real impact.

But feedback is not just something exchanged between employees and their manager. Feedback can be exchanged between employees within the same team or department. This will help them bond and will fuel peer motivation. By understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses, teams can also become more productive by organizing and performing their tasks more efficiently.

#5 Offering Flexible Scheduling

Even the most enjoyable job can become monotonous and tedious if it has to be performed non-stop. Companies always offer at least one break throughout the working day. However, it’s best to go even further than that and start offering flexible scheduling options. By making scheduling more flexible, companies offer their employees the unique opportunity to set up their day as they want.

Of course, this is easier done with remote employees, but it is still doable with in-office ones. If flexible scheduling is not an option, setting up more breaks throughout the day could solve the issue. Some findings suggest that our brain can work efficiently for 90 minutes. After that, it needs a break of around 20 minutes. This is an exciting idea company can experiment with by setting up schedules that create such cycles of 90+20 minutes.

#6 Providing Food and Drinks

As mentioned earlier, good working conditions don’t just involve comfortable chairs and access to the latest tech. Providing food and drinks is a significant part of what makes the workspace comfortable, which is why offering these is important. Employees can chat a bit during the breaks while having tea and eating an apple, for instance.

Likewise, special snacks can be presented as rewards. For example, when a team has a breakthrough or a big success, it can be a good idea to order some pizza at the end of the week to celebrate. This encourages and appreciates employees and can also help positive relationships between employees and managers grow.

#7 Listening to Employee Opinions

Sharing feedback is the perfect way to improve relationships between employees and supervisors as well as among employees. However, it’s also important to listen to employee opinions. This is somewhat different from pure feedback, as listening to employee opinions means involving them in decision-making.

Katherine Preece, a writer, says, “Employees want to feel like their voices are heard, and they want to make an impact. They also want to feel empowered. That’s why they need to have a say in decisions big and small. Besides, if they have a say in many things, they will believe in the product and the company more.”

#8 Communicating with Transparency

It’s a fact that not every employee can have access to the information discussed among the senior executives and managers. However, that doesn’t mean that such employees need to be kept entirely in the dark about the current matters related to the company’s well-being. That’s why transparency in communication should be a priority for managers who want to establish positive relationships with employees.

Moreover, by communicating transparently, managers and supervisors show that they trust their employees. Whether it’s good news or bad news, it doesn’t matter. What does is the mere fact that an office worker at the bottom of the business hierarchy is valued and trusted enough to be given such important information about the company they are working at.

#9 Encouraging Innovation and Creativity

Motivating employees is not just about making them perform their regular tasks efficiently but also about making them grow professionally. Through their growth, the company can also expand and develop. All of this, of course, is impossible without innovation and creativity, which should be encouraged in the workspace.

Employees possess an intrinsic desire to do their job well, one of their significant motivators. If they can innovate and find a new approach, they will already feel accomplished and strive to do even better. Likewise, by being creative and having a say in things, they already get more attached to the company and the product, which motivates them further.

#10 Organizing Training Sessions

Speaking of professional growth, it’s a good idea to organize regular training sessions to allow employees to develop their skills and enrich their knowledge of the field they are working in. This correlates directly with two primary motivators: the intrinsic desire to do a good job and the ability to grow professionally.

The great news is that training sessions can be organized in various ways to accommodate both in-office and remote employees. Even individual courses can be a good idea so that every employee receives a personalized learning path to follow.

#11 Defining Realistic Objectives

Setting goals and objectives is a pretty mundane thing for many companies. Yet, if these goals are set incorrectly, teams might not be able to achieve the milestones in due time, which can be very discouraging. Moreover, setting unachievable goals could create too much pressure on the employees, leading to burnout. This is precisely why defining realistic objectives is so essential for motivating employees.

It’s a good idea to have significant long-term goals and smaller short-term ones. When employees achieve these smaller goals, they will feel encouraged to keep working hard to achieve those bigger long-term ones. Likewise, when a small accomplishment is made, employees feel like they have already made some kind of impact and want to continue making an even more significant difference in the long run.

#12 Integrating Rituals for the Workspace

Though it’s not always to recognize these things without actually thinking about them, there are numerous rituals people perform daily. Anything from brushing teeth to saying “I love you” to a significant other can become a habit and a part of someone’s daily ritual. Many of such things can be performed on autopilot, which takes the stress out of doing them. That’s why integrating rituals for the workspace can help motivate lazy employees.

For instance, every morning, teams can be encouraged to spend half an hour on exercise. This will energize employees right before work and can even help them bond. It doesn’t have to be stressful–even a yoga session or some stretching will do just fine. Over time, employees will feel accustomed to having this morning ritual right before work which will help them switch into working mode on time.

#13 Paying Attention to Health

Though some morning exercise can be considered a ritual, it can also be seen as a way to pay attention to employee health. Both physical and mental health is essential for employees to perform well at work and to feel motivated rather than lazy. Moreover, by showing care for health, managers signal employees that they value their well-being.

Another way to pay attention to health is by focusing on healthy snacks and drinks at work instead of junk food. Likewise, companies have to provide health benefits as a part of working agreements (e.g., health insurance, paid sick days).

#14 Assisting in the Work-Life Balance

By focusing on employee health, companies can already help their workers find some kind of work-life balance. And yet, there are many other things managers can do to assist employees in achieving this balance. Besides, by helping employees with this, supervisors provide positive management experiences and make employees feel valued and recognized.

Fletcher Weeks, a blogger, explains it this way, “Nowadays, we are constantly bombarded with information and seem to always lack the time to process everything that’s going on. HR managers must work with each employee individually to maintain a work-life balance. If they have enough time to rest, lazy employees will be more motivated to perform well at work.”

#15 Experimenting with Rewards

As mentioned earlier, rewards can come in a wide variety of forms. Anything from gift cards to extra vacation days can be presented as rewards. However, it’s also a good idea for managers to experiment with the rewards they give their employees. It’s not enough for managers to think about new ways to reward employees – it’s also important to ask employees what kind of rewards they want.

Managers can improve employee relationships by asking them about rewards and showing appreciation. Furthermore, employees can feel they have a say in even more work-related matters. It’s a good idea to let them create the rewards they want. That is, let employees organize parties the way they want them to be. This will give them yet another opportunity for independence and satisfy them with the reward.

#16 Gathering Employees for Bonding

Speaking of parties, they can be an excellent opportunity for bonding. That said, managers should still find ways to gather employees to bond outside work. This will help supervisors establish better relationships with their employees while showing them how much they are valued and appreciated. But unlike rewards, bonding moments don’t need to be motivated by achievements.

Such gatherings for bonding are also an excellent way to form good work culture and promote peer motivation in the future. When employees are on friendly terms, they will be able to cooperate at work more effectively and will know each other’s strengths and weaknesses better. Some ideas for gatherings include picnics, movie nights, sports, group vacations, etc.

#17 Fueling Positive Work Culture

This point is more general and covers many tips discussed earlier. Fueling a positive work culture to motivate and engage lazy employees is essential in the long run. Employees will enjoy coming to work more when there is a positive atmosphere at work. This, in turn, will lead to them enjoying the work itself, resulting in more motivation and productivity.

In addition, positive work culture is essential for good relationships between employees and managers and among employees themselves. There can be more openness and more collaboration and teamwork. Similarly, positive work culture can help lazy employees get more attached to your company and your product which will further motivate them to work harder.

#18 Developing Career Paths

As explained earlier, managers need to take the time to work with employees individually to ensure that everyone has a sustainable work-life balance. But further, HR managers have to discuss possible career paths for every employee. When lazy employees know what their future job can look like, they will be more motivated, inspired, and encouraged to work towards achieving that job.

For example, discussing potential promotions to higher positions or bonuses that employees can get is a good idea. You can also discuss the possibility of working overseas if you have an international office and ensure a smooth transition by working with experienced relocation consultants. Moreover, managers can take training sessions into account to show employees how they can grow professionally – regarding their skillset and position in the company. When employees get relevant training, they have more knowledge and skills to do their job well, which is one of their top motivators.

#19 Allowing Autonomy and Independence

This is another general tip that encompasses some previously discussed techniques. Providing employees with some degree of autonomy and independence can motivate them to perform better and do their job right. This autonomy and independence can be presented in different forms and can empower employees in various ways.

For instance, encouraging creativity and innovation lets employees have a say in important decisions related to the company and its products. At the same time, flexible scheduling can be a way to give some autonomy to employees. Likewise, letting employees organize their parties is a way to empower them and give them independence when it comes to rewards.

#20 Working with Employees Individually

Last but not least, there is yet another general tip that will be especially beneficial to managers and supervisors. It’s crucial to remember that every employee is different, and even if a particular team seems to have more or less similar professionals, the reality might not be as simple. This is why it’s so important to work with employees individually and discuss their needs and interests on a personal level.

Such an individual approach is the best way to develop positive relationships between employees and managers and show employees that they are valued. From personalizing rewards to discussing career paths to paying attention to health, these are just ways to show employees that they are valued not just as pieces of a team but also as individual professionals in their respective niches.

Frequently Asked Questions

What percentage of employees are engaged?

35% of employees in the US fall into the “engaged” category. These numbers perfectly demonstrate the terrible situation, considering that not even half of the employees are engaged.

Are employees more productive when they are engaged?

According to Gallup, companies with higher employee engagement have 18% higher productivity in sales and 23% higher profitability than companies with lower employee engagement. When lazy employees are motivated, they become more engaged and, therefore, more productive.

What is the number one motivator for employees?

According to the study by TINYpulse mentioned earlier, camaraderie or peer motivation is the number one motivator for employees. Employees want to work in a team that is just as motivated as they are. In other words, employees can fuel each other’s motivation through teamwork.

Do engaged employees stay longer?

According to Gallup, companies with higher employee engagement have less turnover. High-turnover organizations see 18% less turnover while low-turnover organizations see 43% less turnover. In other words, engaged employees tend to stick to the company where they are motivated to work.

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