The Value of Team Projects for Building Morale, by Patrick Foster

The Value of Team Projects for Building Morale, by Patrick Foster

Maintaining morale is an often-overlooked aspect of running a business

Too many managers are strictly utilitarian, viewing their employees as simple productivity machines to be dealt with accordingly — consequently, they build unsteady working arrangements that inevitably collapse under the slightest pressure.

People are far more complicated than that. Even the most dedicated and steely-eyed staff member will experience frustration, self-doubt, and even anxiety about their work. All these negative emotions can sap creativity, willpower, and productivity alike. They can lead to petty colleague skirmishes and needless resentment, impacting employee retention rates.

It is vital for a business owner, or anyone charged with managing a team, to keep them feeling optimistic, confident, and resilient. One of the best ways to achieve this is to invest in team projects.

Here’s why they’re so beneficial.

They require everyone to communicate carefully

In a digital age, colleagues don’t necessarily communicate as often, and in some scenarios keep to themselves, working on their own tasks and avoiding discussions, be they personal or professional. This can be a good thing, but it can also be damaging in the long run, leaving teams feeling disconnected.

Working together on a group project forces people to communicate smartly, no matter how much they’ve spoken before (or what they think of one another). In the short term, this can cause friction and discontentment; push past that awkwardness and the relations will eventually thaw.

Snap character assessments are quite common, and two employees might have disdain for each other, based on a trivial misunderstanding from the first day they spent together as colleagues. When required to communicate, truth often bares fruit, and they even discover they’re more alike than they think.

Mutual coaching

Any given member of your team will have a unique set of skills — not only those they were required to have for their position, but also those they happen to have developed in their own time. When team members don’t communicate, those skills remain isolated, and one person who needs assistance in a certain area might be working alongside someone who has the answers without even realizing it. Knowledge is best when it’s shared.

When you get people cooperating on a large task, each team member will start to form a more fleshed-out notion of their colleagues’ capabilities. Very frequently, this will lead to mutual support: for example, one person with excellent IT skills will help their colleague out, and said colleague may return the favour by helping them with their management skills.

Over time, this will produce a more well-rounded set of workers — and because each team member will be more accomplished and capable, they’ll feel more confident in everything they do, leading to a rise in morale.

They allow the business to grow in new directions

Businesses are like vehicles: the larger they get, the slower they move, and any business big enough to have a full team, is going to have various impediments to progress. Most importantly, there are clients to keep happy — and major internal projects will struggle to get off the ground with no one able to give them any undivided attention.

This lack of progress can significantly affect morale, as it can lead people to feel that the business isn’t going anywhere. A team project however, requires everyone to pause their independent workloads, and work together in getting something greater done. Think about the growing pains that a business can suffer, and how many could be resolved quite quickly with some undivided attention and unrestricted brainstorming.

Here is a common example from the tech world: you started your business website on a low-end CMS, but now you’re getting enough traffic that it’s holding you back, yet you can never quite arrange the go-ahead to migrate to a new platform (particularly limiting if migrating to something enterprise-capable is your next logical move). A website migration is a huge headache if it’s drip-fed over months — but get everyone to focus on it and you might be able to get it done faster, allowing you to get back to everyday work.

A sense of community

It’s possible to maintain a strict barrier between your personal life and your professional life. You can go to work, do what’s required of you, then put it behind you and spend your free time forgetting that your workplace even exists. But it isn’t very satisfying. It leads you to feel that your career is a parasite of sorts, feeding off your efforts and sapping you of valuable time.

It’s naive to think that every single workday can be an enjoyable experience, of course — when you’re getting paid to do something, you’ll naturally be called upon to do things you don’t really want to do — but a career on the whole should be satisfying. A working team can be a makeshift family, with everyone feeling invested in the plight of others, and this community spirit helps protect optimism and mental health (it’s well-established that entrepreneurs tend to suffer from great stress).

Work social events are essential in establishing workplace families. They teach people that they can rely on those around them, and give them shared goals and frustrations — even when they go back to their regular tasks, they’ll still feel connected to some extent by the communal experiences.

For all of these reasons and more, team projects are absolutely worth your time. It may be intimidating to step away from the daily grind that ultimately fuels the growth of your company, but if you don’t make time to develop your team, you’ll hugely limit the potential of your company.

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