Companies look to boost workers' morale

It's harder to keep morale up when the economy is down.

As the recession rattles the nation's workforce, companies of all sizes are intensifying efforts to improve employee mood.

Many are communicating more information, more often. Some are trying new ways to show their appreciation for hard work. Others are adding low-cost extras to motivate and encourage.

Layoffs, furloughs, pay cuts and reduced benefits are weighing on workers. Remaining staffers are being asked to do more. Even at companies faring relatively well, managers recognize that the broader economic turmoil and tighter belts are disruptive and distracting.

"Whether you're the highest paid person in the organization or the lowest paid, there isn't anyone who isn't affected by what's going on," said Gary Park, president of UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. "Everybody is facing the same issues today. Our workforce understands why we have to look at every penny."

At iContact, the recent addition of "Karaoke Fridays" is one way the Durham technology company hopes to keep employees excited about coming to work. The company, which provides e-mail marketing services, is still expanding despite the downturn.

"You hear all the stuff about the stock market, job losses," said Taylor Barr, who helped organize the singing with co-worker James Wong. "This is a great way to boost morale. It gets people smiling."

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