I look around and see many signs saying “Now Hiring”. Yet I hear that there are many people unemployed. There are many reasons for this and I don’t want to simplify a complex set of issues, but I do want to address one aspect of it. Many would-be employees have left their job in droves due to burnout. They are the ones who continue to stay away and are looking for ways to live that don’t involve returning to the traditional workforce.
Employers who are wise will look at ways to hang on to the employees they currently have by addressing some of the issues that prompted the exodus. Pay raises are good, but a good salary in an unhappy environment has not been shown to be the best solution. Employers must address less apparent issues such as just not feeling happy, or enjoying the work environment. It is possible to enjoy your work and not the people you work with.
Play can help with this. The company or team that plays together can bond well and be more inclined to stay together. Play reduces levels of tension and invites feelings of well-being. However, for many companies, the word “play” is associated with a lack of productivity. This is because they see play as employees goofing off on their phones or computers. Employers see it as a distraction, and for the most part, they are correct.
If the company, however, directed the office play in a way so that it remained enjoyable for the employees while promoting bonding it would be a win-win. Here are a few ways that this can be done.
Where is Waldo
Invite team members to find Waldo. Waldo can be a team mascot or just a stuffed animal or image you choose. It can be physical, or digital. I like digital because you can hide it in an email or a file that your team has access to or visits frequently. You can use a Bitmoji or Gif. This can be a fun exercise that elicits team members’ cooperation or competitiveness. Attach a reward for greater participation.
Celebrate taking time off.
Invite team members to take a selfie of a night out. They have to submit that with their receipt (restaurant or entertainment), showing the last 4 digits of their credit card number to get credit for good self-care. For added bonus invite them to “review” their night out with team members. This could be a restaurant or a movie review or just 5 minutes telling about what they did with their time off that was fun. Keep it PG and roll with it.
Post fun quizzes weekly
It may take a bit of planning and ingenuity but you can find several quizzes online. You will need to put them in a format that all the employees can use (print out, or post on a company site). Again for greater engagement celebrate winners by acknowledging them or providing a reward.
Reward health gains. Improved physical health can be encouraged by hosting quarterly health goals and having employees share them and outline their benchmarks and their strategies to achieve them. Goals should be SMART goals and the team should agree on ways it will be validated. For instance, a weight loss goal of losing 5 lbs by the end of the quarter is reasonable. Employees may need to share starting weight and end-of-quarter weight. Having peer support and encouragement may prove helpful. Another measurable goal would be to exercise regularly. How would employees define regular and how will it be validated. Will it be self-report, or Fitbit recorded, or will they submit photos of themselves at the gym. It is up to the employee and the team. The team is there for encouragement and accountability. End of quarter celebration should be for everyone, regardless of goal success. This is one activity where effort is valued and team support is the real winner.
Have the team learn a language together. It doesn’t have to be something practical like Spanish or French. It could be Tagalog (yes that is a language). The idea is to get everyone to greet each other in that language each day and to encourage them to learn basics like how to say their name and ask each other questions in the language. Duolingo (a free app) is great for this. They can sign up and add friends for friendly competition in the chosen language. Relationship Science has shown that people who are engaged in learning together can develop some healthy bonds and affection. In an isolated corporate environment this may be helpful.
What do you want to put effort into?
Think of how much money is spent onboarding new workers. Isn’t it worth it to work on keeping already trained employees? To do so you must think outside the box. What are some ways you can think of to help employees bond? Can you share some ideas that you have experienced in your work life that have promoted positive feelings about your organization and job?
One of my husband’s employers organized a company cruise. We paid for it but it was a great bonding experience with me getting to know some of the people he worked with and their spouses. Another of his companies flew us to Omaha for the company's Christmas party to meet the other employees in a different branch of the company. We have also been privileged to go to company picnics and dinner shows. Not every organization has the finances to engage in these activities with their employees. That is why the 5 activities listed above are affordable. They however will take some intentional effort.
Proverbs 17:1 says “Better is a dry morsel with quietness, Than a house full of feasting with strife.” We have to do better at understanding what employees want in an 8-hour-plus day if we want them to stay. The bottom line is that increasing attrition and stemming the bleed of employee loss takes effort but so does recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training new employees. The organization just has to decide where they want to put the money and the effort.
Allison is a Professional Life Strategist, helping busy professional women maintain healthy relationships professionally and personally as they move forward in their lives. She gives you tools to build the life you want.