Planning on-going fun and celebration at work, with your family or friends is an excellent way to do group mental flossing. These ideas have been known to improve relationships, enhance creativity, make people feel appreciated, and build an invisible web of goodwill.
Most of the ideas below come from a survey of the most popular ideas used at medium to large organizations in North America. All the ideas have actually been tried, and more importantly, they have been accepted with joy and appreciation and have produced positive results for the organizations that tried them. Use these ideas or let them inspire you to customize your own for your group environment. Most of them cost little or nothing and require virtually no time beyond informing people about what’s happening. You can weave them into your day or use them to plan a special event. The most important thing is to not just talk about these ideas, but actually do them.
A. Fun Rituals:
1. Champagne Celebration: Maybe the office has just landed that big, long-fought-for account, or, perhaps the division has just had a productive week together. Why not celebrate working together—for any reason—with some champagne (or sparkling grape juice if you prefer)?
2. Kazoo Applause: At Apple Computers, during a quarterly meeting, they gave out kazoos to the whole group. Rather than applauding by clapping hands (how passé!), they hummed their acknowledgment with kazoos. How about trying slide whistles instead of gavels for formal meetings? In fact, how about asking for a standing ovation . . . right now?!
3. Noses: There are a variety of rubber animal noses and red foam or plastic clown noses—bring ’em in and wear for staff meetings, tough times, on Fridays, etc.
4. Laugh a Day: The corporate office of Bank of America issued a “Laugh a Day Challenge” to all its Northern California employees. For the entire month of April, employees were challenged to bring in a joke or cartoon every day to share with their co-workers. Those people successfully completing the Challenge were given a Corporate Challenge T-Shirt, and a book, internally published, filled with the best responses. [It’s important to note the spirit of the “challenge” NOT the “competition”. They weren’t looking for the best jokes to “win”, but simply the willingness to participate. Thus everyone wins, even the employees who did not bring in jokes, but who nonetheless got to hear them.]
5. Thanks in Advance: Sure we enjoy and deserve to celebrate and be acknowledged for our contributions when we retire. But, why wait?! How about a party and a celebration on the first day of a person’s joining your company/organization? What a great way to set the tone and include them as a member of the team.
6. Contests: Try these at lunchtime or at social events: Balloon shaving, Lip synch, Air band (or air orchestra), Worst Hair Day, Giant bubbles, Golf course.
7. Secret Pal: Have everyone in the office/organization/division/etc. write his/her name, address, phone number, birth date (actual date of birth for those with nothing to hide!), and a short list of things they like (such as: flowers, sports, chocolate, funny hats, exotic post cards, music, etc.). Fold and put slips in a hat. Then each person picks a slip — making sure that no one has picked their own name (if so, all slips go back in and try again). Once all slips are distributed and everyone has someone else’s name, the fun begins! You are the Secret Pal to the person whose name you’ve picked. Over the course of the Secret Pal experience (we recommend at least three months) your “mission” is to do creative, spontaneous, fun, and enlivening things for your partner…all anonymously of course. You might send flowers to his/her home; leave a note on her desk about how much you enjoy working together, or admire her professional competence, or appreciate his contributions to the organization; or, perhaps, simply send a Valentine’s card in September with a note that you just couldn’t wait until February to send your love. The important thing is to make it fun and uplifting–and impossible for your partner to guess who their Secret Pal is. And, of course, the extra special fun is that while you are being a Secret Pal to your lucky partner, someone else in the group is your Secret Pal, and is doing fun things for you! At the end of the predetermined time span, have a public event where Secret Pals are revealed.
B. Theme Days:
1. Clothes: Hats; socks (one only? mismatched?); tacky tourist; tacky/ugly tie; clashing clothes; have Casual Dress Day once a week/month. (it’s a way to acknowledge those “secret identities” we all seem to have; the sides of ourselves that our friends see, but that our co-workers–who, let’s face it, we may actually spend more time with—rarely get to see). In Hawaii, on occasion even the television newscasters wear Aloha shirts rather than “business clothing” during broadcasts. It’s a real nod to the playful, joie de vivre spirit in all of us; certain colors (eg. one color, or color family only, ebony & ivory, etc.); inside-out; crazy T-shirts; pajamas; eccentric accessories.
2. Food: Have a backward meal; notes on orange rind; hot dog bananas; use food colors to change colors of food (blue potatoes? purple pasta?); senior management can cook and serve food to employees; do-it-yourself banana splits; gourmet lunch; food Olympics…
3. Celebrate: Special holidays; un-birthdays; Tuesdays; your giggling friends; standing ovations (at meetings, in the cafeteria); crazy awards (to bosses, to employees, part-time staff); a person’s first day on the job; airport arrivals; Christmas in July; summer beach party in February; helium balloons (notes inside, give ’em away, decorate or write messages on the outside); $1.00 present anonymous gift exchange; celebrity for a day; decorate your boss’ office…
4. Flowers: Bring ’em in to adorn the office; give ’em away with a note of acknowledgment; have a bouquet that someone keeps for an hour and then passes on to the next person; balloon bouquets…
5. Photos: (baby, pets, cars, kids) For the bulletin board; for newsletters; awards meetings; the training room.
6. Special Person Days: Secretaries Day celebrations; Family Day: bring in photos or bring in the family for lunch, have a lunch out; special office picnic day; Gopher Day: delegate things to people (ie, will you please go-fer this or that) or, if you come in and see your shadow, you leave and don’t return to work for six weeks; offer massages on April 30…
7. Be Kind to Others Day: (Of course this should really be every day!) Do spontaneous, anonymous kind things for each other—eg., clean all the tea cups in the staff room; finish a colleagues report; finish your assistant’s filing…
8. Excuses: Put up a sheet of paper and ask people to contribute the best excuse they’ve ever heard or given for: being late, returning merchandise, not paying their bill, etc. (use a real one, or make one up)
9. Awards: Night Each person gets given the name of someone else at work. They choose an award title and a fitting prize to go with it. Choose upbeat, non put-down prizes. Here are some examples of titles and awards:
o Best blow-dried hair…can of salon mousse.
o Perkiest phone voice…new phone headset.
o Most good-natured morning person…gift certificate for 10 cups of chai at local tea shop.
o Most legible handwriting… pen embossed with their name and company name.
C. On Going:
1. Humor Area: Create laugh books (people write in funny anecdotes and non-toxic jokes; bind them and distribute at the end of the quarter or year); cartoon corner; jokes/cartoons on memos and newsletters; smile more; cartoon treasuries or funny magazines in waiting areas and bathrooms; laughter cart; a laughter room; comedy library of books, CD’s and DVD’s…
2. Games: Non-competitive/cooperative games; charades; skits; secret word (upon hearing the word, everybody crosses legs or looks up or changes seats, etc.); treasure hunt…
3. The Great Job Exchange: Trade jobs, clothes, offices for a day. OK, OK, at least try an hour. 10 minutes?
4. Elevators: Smile, introduce people to each other (you don’t have to know them either) face everyone else; have cartoons on the side walls call an elevated meeting.
5. What’s Good?: Begin meetings by asking each person “What’s going good in your dept?”
6. Joy Break Box: Instead of having coffee or tea at 3:15, take ten minutes off to do, read or play something fun (read a novel, thumb through a “Far Side” cartoon book, check out the movie pages for a comedy film to see later, listen to a comedy tape on your headphones); try to have a rule: “no-work-talk” on breaks; create a Joybreak Committee to plan occasional group break-time interactions and activities.
7. Stroll Meetings: For 2-3 person meetings, go on a walk together in nature
(bring a mini recorder to capture ideas and decisions for the minutes).
8. Best Mistakes: Stories allot 5 minutes during meetings for people to share any recent embarrassing or funny stories from their work or personal life.
9. Mural: Put up a large piece of paper in a common area. Pick a theme and ask people to contribute to it over a period of time. They can draw pictures, doodles, write words, poetry, paste magazine clippings, etc.
10. Lunchtime Fun: Go out to lunch with co-workers all wearing noses or fun hats. Give an outrageously good tip to the waiter. Sing the waiter a song for doing such a good job.
11. Unbirthdays (pick anyone and give them a surprise birthday party)
12. Decorate the boss’s office with streamers, flowers and balloons
13. Way to Go notes: Have you ever wanted to tell someone what you admire, respect or appreciate about them, but never got around to it? Create a large envelope for each person at work and put them in a common area. Each week invite everyone to write notes of specific acknowledgment to their bosses, employees or even service providers–where you have caught them doing something right. Put your notes in the appropriate envelope. After one month, everyone opens their envelopes.
14. Caption Contest: Put up a cartoon without the caption on the staff area bulletin board. Invite people to make up a new caption that fits the cartoon. As people go through their day they can read what other people wrote and add to the list.