Recruitment Tips, Employer Trends, and Hiring Insights from CareerBuilder

Retention > Talent Management

Promoting Fun at Work: 15 Ways to Engage Your Employees

Let’s admit it – work can be a drag at times, even if you love your job. There are days when you just want to crawl back into bed…but if you know you’re having a fun event at work, or you show up at the office and Susie whispers conspiratorially of a spontaneous pizza party (mmm food) – it makes the day a little more bearable.

In a previous post I presented ways that companies are having fun, sharing employees’ rants and raves concerning their own company initiatives. Many companies are having fun at work, and their employees are appreciative for the work/life balance that it offers them.

Soda blues…

If “fun” to your company means waiting in line to use the water cooler or testing one’s fame and fortune with the moody soda machine, however, the reality of how your employees perceive you – and working for you – is not often pretty.

My friend Katie, for example, tells me that at her engineering firm, “fun” is not part of their vocabulary. She says, “Seriously, we don’t do anything for birthdays, promotions, or even retirements. The ladies in the office organize their own baby showers when the once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity to do so arises.” I only talked to about 30 friends and received more than one response that was similar to this – so I imagine this is a fairly common complaint across the board.

But hold on!

Companies with varied budgets, restrictions, staff sizes, and cultures really are dreaming up loads of fun things – and then making them a reality. Best of all, it turns out there’s a fit for everyone.

15 Fun Things that Companies Really Are Doing Right Now

This list is straight from the mouths of employees themselves (who also happen to be my friends – thanks, guys). Remember, these can be altered to fit your unique budget and company culture.

1. Because you never made the Varsity team in high school. Start up company-sponsored softball, volleyball and football leagues in which anyone can join and play for free. Non-sports-playing cheerleaders are welcomed as well.

2. Manicure Mondays - Sarah says a manicurist comes in every Monday for manicures and pedicures, and although employees pay for the treatments themselves, it serves as a nice break to the day – and management encourages the indulgence.

3. “Chowing for Charity” - Company-hosted events in which employees sign up for a specific dish depending on the themed occasion (i.e. picnic foods in the summer) and everyone pays a minimal fee to get in and try all of the food. Votes are casted for top three dishes, and the winner gets a prize. The best part? All of the proceeds go to charity.

4. Food and drink with a side of education, please. Host an educational wine and cheese pairing class in-house…or engage in an interactive cooking class off-site.

5. Exercising cancels out calories. Members of our corporate marketing team here at CB recently embarked on a bike tour with Bobby’s Bike Hike to sweet shops around the city, stopping to learn more (and to eat, of course!)

fun at work: team bike tour

6. Everyone likes to eat! The frequency in which companies host catered meals can range from once per quarter to once per week, but the point is that employees love getting together and eating. Food brings people together, and by hosting a community meal, you’re also helping to boost morale and strengthen employee relationships.

Menu stress? Don’t fret. Meals can range from build-your-own oatmeal winter breakfasts to employee-driven pot luck lunches to ice cream socials. Ice cream social-lover Jon says, “So what if the only exercise we get is walking to ice cream? If just for a moment, it makes work seem like a little slice of heaven.”

The options are endless, so feel free to get creative. Alternatively, one employee mentioned that her team has breakfast once a week; each week, a different member of the team brings food for everyone.

7. House building…and team building. A combined-department volunteering event like Habitat for Humanity keeps things fun and interactive by pitting departments against each other. Alternatively, Nicole says her company competes to see which team can raise the money for a philanthropic cause, with the winning team receiving tickets to a sporting event.

8. That watercolor hanging in your cube is not really “art.” Get a bit of culture while bonding with fellow employees. Art exhibits or other cultural activities can be great ways to gain new perspectives and spark creative ideas to bring back to the workplace and thread into company projects.

9. They’re workin’ hard for the money. Take the team to dinner after reaching their quarterly goals, having a solid, hard-working week, or simply displaying a bit of extra effort. Sean tells me that their company hosts champagne receptions to celebrate a big win. Krista offers a more party-style option: her company throws big bashes, renting out bars with karaoke, a deejay, and massive amounts of food and drinks when they reach their quarterly goals. Stuck in the office? Jennifer’s company hosts a monthly “restaurant of the month” raffle – winner receives a gift certificate to use on their own time.

10. Morning person…or night owl? How about a daytime venture out to an amusement part, or a nighttime jaunt to a sports event such as a baseball game – complete with ballpark dogs and a rowdy crowd?

11. Rainy day blues. When walking outside equates to work pants soaked in muddy puddles, an unexpected excuse to not venture out – like a spontaneous free lunch – is oh-so-nice.

12. You just can’t stomach another bite of cake. When it’s someone’s birthday at Tania’s company, that person picks the meal to be brought in rather than the standard cake – anything from burritos to sushi to a vegetarian buffet. Kristin says that her company’s monthly birthday celebrations are funded from money out of employee paychecks, but that her company’s social club takes care of the details.

Cory has a bit of a different perspective, suggesting that companies give an employee who is having a birthday the day off. As he says, “The employee would appreciate the gift of a free vacation day and the rest of the employees would be more productive without the distraction of planning and attending numerous birthday parties.” Hmm…he has a point.

13. First Fridays. On the first Friday of every month, everyone shuts down early for happy hour. Each happy hour is themed and hosted by one of the departments. (For example, the company’s sports teams recently hosted, and the spread included a hot dog bar, nachos, and more). Bonus tip: This event has a dual purpose of celebrating and recognizing new hires and promotions.

14. Barley, hops, and trains. Beer – and quality beer at that – is allowed to be consumed after 2 p.m., Chris tells me. (I know, I couldn’t believe this one either.) The catch? You have to commute to and from work via public transportation. Obviously, this won’t work in every environment, but if it fits into your culture, it might be worth a shot. Er – sip.

15. Now taking your music requests (no Kenny G, please). Jen says that playing music in the afternoons on fridays creates a more relaxed atmosphere while she and other employees are doing non-phone, administrative wrap-up work before the weekend.

It’s all relative…

The biggest thing that I have come away with from this experiment is that the definition of “fun” really changes from company to company in terms of funding sources, expanse and extravagance, and other logistics, but of greater importance is the fact that your company is doing something.

Ideas of your own to share? We’d love to hear ‘em!