Improving employee morale isn’t just about feeling good; it’s also about improving efficiency and productivity.

A disengaged employee can cost an employer as much as 34% of the employee’s annual salary every year. In the American economy, this comes out to a loss of around $350 billion per year. So, while talking about employee morale may seem (to some people) like a touchy-feely topic, it also has a huge impact on your company’s bottom line.

So, what can you do to improve morale among your employees? We have seven simple tips to create happier, more engaged, and more effective employees.

1. Flexibility

Among millennials, one of the top requests from workers and employees is more flexibility. That can mean flexible hours, remote work, or part-time work, but a requirement to work in an office from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday could be a deal-breaker. Some potential hires may not even consider a job if flexible work isn't offered. In an incredibly tight job market, employers cannot afford to lose top talent due to adhering to rigid, outdated requirements.

2. More Paid Time Off

Providing employees with additional paid time off can have a huge impact on morale. Some employers resist this benefit, but they are looking at it as a short-term expense, instead of a long-term investment. Allowing workers additional time to spend with their families, on hobbies, or simply relaxing, leads to happier workers who are less resentful and more productive during the time they are at work. But be wary of the recent trend toward unlimited vacation days. These policies can actually lead to employees taking less vacation due to unclear expectations. If you choose to implement an unlimited paid time off plan, make sure employees have a clear idea of what is expected.

3. Stand Up For Them

Nothing will get a good employee down faster than being thrown under the bus by their boss. The old adage, "The customer is always right," has led to employees being disciplined or embarrassed even when they've done nothing wrong. It goes without saying that if an employee has handled a situation correctly, and a customer or client is being unreasonable, the employee should not be blamed for the interaction, or dressed down in front of the client. But, maybe even more importantly, employers should support otherwise good employees when they do make mistakes. A great manager takes responsibility for their part in any employee mistakes, and lets the employee know that they will help them learn from it. By supporting an employee during a time that could otherwise be upsetting or difficult, employers create a culture of respect and understanding.

4. Opportunities for Feedback

No matter how great your company is, employees will have complaints from time-to-time. It's important that they have a clear and anonymous way to provide feedback on things that could be improved. This can be done through regularly scheduled surveys, a suggestion box, or through a designated intermediary, for example, an HR professional. Not only will this improve employee morale by making them feel heard and allowing an avenue for them to fix issues that impact them, it can also simply improve your company. Often, things that are frustrating your employees are also things that are otherwise operating ineffectively in your company.

5. Acknowledge Personal Milestones

Everyone likes to have their personal achievements acknowledged. That doesn't mean you have to snoop around and try to find out every important date in your employees' lives. But you should try to acknowledge one or two major life events for each employee every year. Send a thoughtful gift for a birthday, anniversary, or a kid's graduation. And if you're struggling to know exactly what they might like, consider using Eva, a personal gifting service, to help you choose the perfect gift.

6. Opportunities to Advance

If you really want your employees to be invested in your company, they need to believe there is an opportunity for advancement. Otherwise, they will always have one foot out the door, looking for the next opportunity. It turns out that, on average, workers will earn more by switching jobs than by staying in their existing job and seeking out promotions and raises. As an employer, setting clear, but generous, raises for milestones will help your employees know that they can make more money if they stay right where they are. Also, having a strong policy for making internal hires for leadership positions will allow talented employees to work their way up to top jobs.

7. Have Fun Together

Trust falls aren't the only team-building activity anymore. Painting events, cooking class, ropes courses, escape rooms—the options for having fun with your team are practically endless. However, consider deciding as a group what the activity should be; no one likes forced fun that they had no say in. You should also plan these events during the work day, or make them voluntary. An attempt to build moral by requiring employees to give up their Thursday evening to cook risotto could very easily backfire.

Bottom Line:

Boosting morale saves money and resources in the long run. Consider sending employees gifts for major life occasions, or offering additional paid time off to show your employees that you care.