Organizing one’s social life at work is a challenging problem, both for the employers as well as for the employees. The fact is that most people find office icebreakers unnecessary or even disadvantageous, but the truth is that team-building activities can really strengthen employe’ relations and can provide a genuine opportunity to relax and unwind.
Research shows that friendly relationships create a fertile ground for teamwork, and prevent competitiveness and mistrust among coworkers. Such an atmosphere prompts more creativity, as people innovate most when they feel supported and the work culture is upbeat and enjoyable. At PIXERS, we do our best to create such a working environment: having fun together is also inscribed into our company’s culture. We know that a modern workplace should be organized as a community center, and as a consulting psychologist and executive coach, Maynard Brusman, says, “a ‘home away from home’ where people get many of their social needs met.”
There are various models for making the social life at office work: some business leaders foster a more humanistic, team-oriented workplace and others want the environment to be strictly business. Which approach is more motivational? Of course, the former one — however, as Lynn Taylor, the author of the book Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job, writes:
“The key is finding the happy medium where employees are friendly, polite and supportive, but not entangled in each other’s lives.”
At PIXERS, we have developed from a small startup into a medium size company with over a hundred employees — and although this conversion was quite moderate, we had to manage the undoubtedly tough transition from a friendly environment where everybody knew each other to one that is more hostile and difficult to embrace socially.
This is how we enjoy each other at PIXERS during and after office hours — we socialize in small groups and, from time to time, we throw parties at the office, so we can talk to each other in a more chilled out manner.
We Organize Happy Hours & Parties
Happy hours are a wonderful way to meet new people or connect with your clients outside the working environment. Another way is to celebrate important anniversaries at the office as we do it at PIXERS (for example, our 5th birthday), which is big enough to serve as a dance floor as well. We also go for drinks with our managers on the occasion of small and larger successes. This way, we not only get to know each other better outside the business environment, but we also build trust and support at work. Apart from this, we develop our emotional intelligence and social intelligence skills by socializing with others.
We Celebrate Each Other’s Birthdays
Celebrating birthdays is a great way to socialize. It’s a special time, where you can take advantage of a break and talk and relax with your coworkers while eating birthday cake and drinking a cup of coffee.
We Share Our Meals
“Team lunches, dinners, picnics, or coffee outings can be a great way for coworkers to unwind and get to know each other in a social situation,” says David W. Ballard of the American Psychological Association.
At PIXERS, we have a spacious lunch area: with a big table, connected to the kitchen and decorated with all the employees’ portraits. Eating together gives you an opportunity to talk about your food preferences, and also can expose your true self — so it’s better not to be too honest or laid back.
We Play Music
Not all the employees have to do everything together and at the same time. It is good to find a group of people, even outside your working team, who share the same interests and with whom you get along. Some of my colleagues from PIXERS play music after office hours, at the office. They have gathered a considerable amount of music equipment there: guitars, drums, loudspeakers and amplifiers, and they meet from time to time to enhance their shared passion and create some good vibes in the office. The advantage is that our office is isolated from the neighborhood, so they don’t bother anybody with their rehearsals.
We Play Games
Playing games may not be the most bond-building activity ever, but at PIXERS there are people who can make a socializing event out of it. There are various games we play: from video games, through board games, ending with Gameboy games, such as Pokémon (we even have a Pokémon tournament).
We Educate Together
Our PIXERS office has an educational corner with books, business-related magazines and a Kindle with e-books, which we can use to educate ourselves and discuss them together from time to time. It’s a nice change during monotonous work days. Moreover, from time to time, on Friday evenings, we gather in our chillout room to watch a movie we previously chose to see together.
We Share Our Passions
Every second Friday we meet during Speakers’ Corner meetings to talk about things that fascinate us: our trips, things we dedicate ourselves to outside work, but also about issues related to the business environment. Such meetings are a great way to present that we are not only qualified employees, but we are also simply interesting people.
We Sweat Together
As we all know, sports are healthy, fun and build trust. Exercising or playing together has both mental and physical benefits — employees lose weight while sweating together, strengthen a sense of community, improve morale, and increase motivation. What is essential is to avoid team-building activities that are likely to provoke negative or cynical reactions from employees. At PIXERS, we sometimes go for karts racing and we often play ping-pong or volleyball together. We even hold ping-pong tournaments (!).
We Organize Hackathons
Our IT department has already organized two Hackathons: the marathons of coding that last at least 24 hours. Their goal is to generate new independent ideas from the programming area that would have less chance to appear in the daily spate of work. Every time, the results were stunning: new functionalities and improvements on our website, prototypes of totally new programs and services, as well as tests of some elements of extreme programming (XP). The side effect was good fun and the integration of the IT department.
We Enjoy our Pet’s Company
Animals are a cool company in all surrounds , including the office. We have one pet at PIXERS, it’s a gecko called Bacon, and it also has its own portrait in our photo gallery. We treat him as a colleague and his role is to relax us and to soothe our tempers .
We Go on Trips
Leaving the confines of the office for a team-building trip gets employees out of their typical work environment and provides an opportunity for new learning and experiences. Some of the best ways to socialize with coworkers are through events or activities that relate directly to the company, says Cali Williams Yost, a flexible workplace strategist and author of Tweak It: Make What Matters to You Happen Every Day. “Whether it’s a company picnic, outside meeting, philanthropic, company-sponsored event or business lunch, all these activities allow you to build ‘smart’ camaraderie. They make your work interactions more enjoyable, which in turn boosts productivity: a win-win for you and the company.”
At PIXERS, we organize such trips once a year: we go to a hotel by the lake, we walk through forests and we even go fishing.
In addition to all this, it’s worth emphasizing that forced team-building methods are loathed by many employees, who find them artificial, embarrassing, and a waste of time. The real challenge in organizing the social life at a company is to promote activities employees want to do and that best fit with the company’s culture.
Another thing to keep in mind while socializing at work is that it can also be detrimental to one’s career. Staying out late over too many drinks, heavy duty partying and office romances are not usually career-improving moves. You should keep the balance and not cross the thin line between the office-level relations and these outside the working environment, which are usually more informal.
All in all, it’s beneficial to have good relationships at work, because we spend most of our time there. Let’s make this time both satisfying and inspiring!
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