By Emma Hickey
Office life is filled with repetition. You arrive at the same time each morning, pour yourself a cup of coffee from the same pot, and begin your day with the same task. There’s a lot that’s consistent from day to day and that can be a good thing. Routines are stabilizing and they create an environment of efficiency. They can also be a bit dull. This is something I spend time thinking about in my role as the office coordinator. I’m in the position to influence office culture and I’m always asking myself what I can do, both big and small, to infuse fun into the office.
I think it’s important to use fun as a way to break up the daily routine. You can bake fun activities into the work schedule, of course, like a monthly happy hour or a weekly team lunch, but that makes them expected. Fun activities that happen on schedule definitely have value, but it’s random surprises and delights that can have the most impact on company culture. In my role, I enjoy focusing on breaking up the monotony of the day with something unexpected, rather than something that’s been on the calendar for weeks.
There are so many ways to go about creating events and excitement in your office, but there are two approaches in particular that I use. You can either develop an event that’s connected to the world outside of the office, or you can develop an event that’s more insular and only exists within your office. During the Winter Olympics, for example, my office created an in-house competition that (somewhat) mirrored the games. We had two weeks of activities and a closing ceremony happy hour, and it was the sort of event that was only as fun as we made it. Luckily, everyone got into the theme and it made for two fun weeks. I’ve also participated in Superbowl and March Madness brackets, and an office awards ceremony based off of the Oscars. These kinds of events allow colleagues to connect to each other while also staying connected to the world around them. It’s a great way to make sure none of the people in your office feel removed from the world outside of the workplace.
It’s also fun to create events that are completely detached from the outside world. Events like this are insular and they can make your office feel special. I once worked at a company that held a chili cook-off every year. The cook-off had nothing to do with the world beyond the company–it wasn’t in celebration of any holidays or related to the zeitgeist. It was purely a company event that existed only within our four walls. Another example of this is a past workplace where everyone played a company-wide game of Assassins, where each person was assigned a target who they had to defeat until only one person was left standing. The office was humming with excitement from this game for a week. These events are a type of world-building within your workplace and they can go far in creating company culture.
It’s also worth mentioning that some of the most fun days at work develop organically. You can plan events all you want–and I certainly do–but ultimately the best thing you can do is create an environment where people feel empowered to come up with their own ideas and run with them. If you’re able to, provide a budget that employees can draw from when they have an idea of something fun they want to do at the office. I’ve found that supporting the ideas of your colleagues, both financially and with your own enthusiasm, is the best way to maintain a fun office culture.