6 Tips for boosting morale in your warehouse during peak season

The last quarter of the year is intensely busy if you work in a warehouse. Trying to get all of the orders shipped out in time for them to arrive before the holidays is a big challenge — one that often requires long hours and lots of physical effort. And no one feels the pressure more than your frontline workers. But stressed, burnt-out, and disengaged workers on the warehouse floor is a recipe for disaster.

If you really want to ensure a productive and successful holiday season, keeping spirits high on the warehouse floor should be a top priority. But how can you do so during the busiest time of the year? We rounded up some practical tips to help you boost morale this peak season.

1. Hire enough to support your team

Being understaffed is the fastest way to burn people out. Bringing in enough workers to do the job may sound like a no-brainer, but the pressure to keep overhead costs lean sometimes prevents operators from being able to do so. Falling short on labor, however, often costs you more in the long run. When you work your team to the bone with no respite, workers are more likely to make mistakes that slow down productivity, or even leave their jobs altogether. And the last thing you want this late in the season is to be forced to hire and onboard all over again.

Companies like Sun Basket and Boley have been leveraging flexible staffing providers like Instawork to scale up during busy seasons and reduce burnout on permanent staff. You can use the app to book additional workers for a few shifts or for the rest of the busy season — whatever you need. You can even add additional shifts if you’re busier than anticipated, or if you know members of your team really need a break. The skilled Professionals in our app are pre-vetted, experienced, and ready to go in no time.

RELATED: [Survey] How are workers on Instawork different?

2. Focus on safety 

Warehouse work can be physically demanding and dangerous, so focusing on safety — even and especially when you’re under tight deadlines — is critical. Make sure that your warehouse workers are taking care of themselves, and keeping themselves (and those around them) safe. Provide water bottles and snacks to keep workers hydrated and energized, and of course, the equipment they need to stay safe, from helmets to googles to masks. Train workers on basic safety practices like getting enough rest and properly lifting heavy items.

You should also emphasize the safety protocols specific to your facility, and reinforce how important they are to follow. Celebrate days with no safety incidents or injuries, and provide recognition and fun rewards to teams that do a great job keeping each other safe at work. This could include things like coffee, gift cards, or even a cash bonus.

3. Check in with staff — & offer tools to help them thrive

Even something as simple as checking in with your staff can have a big impact on their wellness. Have managers ask their team how they’re doing, what they need, and how things could be improved — but don’t stop there. 

There are plenty of great tools that encourage wellness. If you don’t already have an employee wellness program, consider looking into platforms like Wellable or Holisticly. You can also play calming music on the warehouse floor, or give gifts like water bottles, back massage sticks/foot massage rollers, or a lifting belt/brace. You could even offer gift certificates for a local spa to top performers.

The holidays can be a hard time of year for anyone, and working a physically-demanding job can add stress during an already stressful time. Show you care by encouraging employees to take care of themselves on and off the clock.

4. Offer food & time to enjoy it

While bringing in coffee, breakfast, or lunches for the team is always appreciated, your team may feel pressured to scarf it down and get right back to work — not exactly relaxing. Give people time to eat together, though, and your staffers will enjoy it all the more.

“Bring in a catered lunch every 2 weeks beginning in November through the end of the year, and make it known as the sit-down time when they're encouraged to put down their work and relax for a bit,” said Perry Knight, the Co-Founder of Wheelie Great.

This time shouldn’t just be about the frontline team, but your leadership team as well. “Depending on the size of your team, have multiple managers attend, and interact with the warehouse team,” Knight added.

You probably won’t be able to shut down the whole warehouse for an hour to sit down for a meal during your busiest time of the year, but rotating team breaks will give them a chance to share food and unwind without derailing operations.

5. Recognize people for going above & beyond 

The phrase “when you see something, say something,” shouldn’t just refer to spotting safety issues — it should include rewarding a job well done, too. When an employee takes a few extra moments to help someone new learn the ropes, or lend a hand to a colleague who is falling behind, thank them for their efforts. Even better if you can do so in front of the broader team. Employees who feel stuck in a thankless job aren’t likely to go above and beyond, but those who are praised for their efforts — and see others praised as well — are more likely to rise to the occasion. Consider honoring an employee of the week or month, and providing a reward or bonus along with it.

RELATED: How to use culture as a recruiting tool for your warehouse

6. Say thank you & ask for feedback

When team members are clocking out for the day, it’s a good idea to have a manager (or several, depending on the size of your warehouse) say thank you and ask people how their day went.

“Given the current dysfunctionality of supply chains, it is critical that on a daily basis, we acknowledge and thank our employees.”

-William McKinnon, President of Canadian Alliance Terminals

Saying thank you at the end of the shift will make your team members feel valued, and also gives you an opportunity to see what you could be doing better.

“We're focusing on listening to the team's feedback and improving wherever we can,” said Brian Lim, CEO of men’s apparel company INTO THE AM.

One improvement they made recently in response to team feedback was improving the way their vendors send them products. Now, they’re “ensuring product drop-offs are spread throughout the week, so as not to overload the receiving team,” Lim said.

When you’re in a time crunch to maximize your output, worker appreciation initiatives may not be the first thing on your mind. But making sure your staff is happy and safe isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s what’s best for your business. Cultivating a great work environment is the ultimate way to boost productivity, meet your goals, and knock this holiday season out of the park.

Need a few more hands to help take some of the pressure off your team? Reach out through the form below to learn more about our flexible staffing options.