If you’re the boss, you can draw on a whole range of ideas to make life a little more engaging for the team - but one of the best gifts you can give them is a little time. If you’ve all had a hard week, bring in a bucket of cold drinks and knock off an hour early of Friday - productivity will rise to meet the earlier deadline, and everyone will feel good about it, too. Or go to the pub for lunch every once in a while - just keep the gestures spontaneous or they lose their impact, as people come to expect - rather than appreciate - things as they become routine.
Competitions and games - as light hearted or serious as you like - can bring a bit of fun to the office, although keep them topical and use sparingly to avoid fatigue. Try a Christmas quiz, a sweepstake for the Grand National, a bake off competition (with comedy judging), or a baby photo quiz to celebrate a new arrival in the team. In customer facing teams, this competitive streak can include and involve your customers too - try some fairground style games, caption competitions, or games for children to keep customers (and staff) happy as they visit your business.
Put together an office Awards ceremony - with a mixture of prizes recognising great achievements, and a sprinkling of silly ones too. Have a staff nomination process, and a democratic vote, demand some speeches and crack open some bubbly to get some impact.
Instigate weekly updates for the team - the ideal might be ’standing meetings’, in which the group gather at an agreed point and time, but don’t settle into seats - naturally keeping things a little more pacey and informal than most meetings. Use the opportunity to give business updates, but more importantly to celebrate team special occasions, birthdays, engagements and so on, to bring everyone closer together.
This is a good one to delegate to the team member with the best local connections - get them to make contact with local businesses, such as gyms, independent stores, nail bars and beauty parlours, and ask what deals they can offer your staff. Companies might come into your work place to offer their products at a discount, or give vouchers or tokens to your team to allow them to take advantage of services at their leisure. A winner for both your team and other local businesses.
Recognise things that are important for your team, and do what you can to facilitate - put a TV in the staff room to show the World Cup, Tour de France or Wimbledon, and avoid people calling in sick to follow their favourite events, as well as pleasing the team!
Plan shared time as a team; eating together can be a real winner - breakfast or lunch are ideal for most, rather than impinging on family time in the evenings, or a coffee morning with home baked cakes on a Friday. The down time this creates is great for developing relationships which will make work not only more fun, but also more productive as people develop trusting relationships and work better together.
Do something for charity together - whether it’s a group ALS Ice Bucket challenge, a day volunteering together, a sponsored walk or simply selling some bric-a-brac for a good cause. Working together to help others is a proven way to make employees happier. Think about the cause you choose, and make sure the positioning makes it clear that individuals are not compelled to join the activities - some people may feel strongly about supporting charities that are close to their own hearts, and every charity trend has (often legitimate) critics, so test the water with ideas before leaping in!
If you have a team working in the same office building, but perhaps split over different desks, cubicles or floors, consider a good natured ’ban’ on individuals calling or emailing other team members, rather than getting up and talking face to face. It’s amazing how quickly people acclimatise to office communication being via email or messenger, where tone, human contact and, often, the true message being communicated, is lost. Face to face conversation improves office life by developing relationships and allowing the jokey chats that don’t really exist online.
If you work in a multicultural team, encourage individual team members to raise events, holidays or festivals which are important to them, and which can be celebrated with the team during the working day. Whilst it goes without saying that work colleagues should be supportive of each other’s cultural and religious practices, all too often people are afraid to probe deeper to understand each other better, for fear of looking ignorant. Encouraging open conversation amongst the team helps everyone respect and understand each other, build relationships, and learn something new.
A happy team is a productive team, with employee engagement correlating to positive indicators like lower employee absence and a higher likelihood to recommend a friend to join the same business. However, with the everyday pressures of office life, it can be tough to lighten the mood. Don’t despair though - even with no budget to throw at office fun, you can make the daily grind more fun with some of these ideas.
If you have any other ideas to add to our list, comment below!