For International Day of Happiness in late March, I decided to start our day at the office with a little fun.
Since my company MyEffect has similar goals -- helping companies make connections, pursue charity work and boost employee engagement -- I thought it would be fun to participate in the United Nations' #smallsmurfbiggoals campaign.
After all, with the constant hustle of startup life, it's important to "breathe" every now and then.
So, before everyone got bogged down with their daily tasks, I brought them together in our boardroom and surprised them with an impromptu coloring contest! Armed with pencils, crayons, markers and a handful of black-and-white Smurf pictures, we started the day off by coloring and forgetting about our pending to-do lists.
We talked about our weekends, shared travel experiences and compared bucket lists. In the end, our coloring exercise was a necessary activity for us to take a step back and de-stress -- as well as build our team culture.
The benefits of coloring therapy have been discussed at large, and the current demand for adult coloring books speaks for itself. Many adults, inf fact, seem to be embracing their inner child by flocking to coloring activities as a way to relieve stress and disconnect from their work for a while.
And, while art therapy has been used for years to treat depression and anxiety, the adult coloring-book fad has grown into a kind of lifestyle, with more and more people each year testing out its benefits.
These benefits, however, are not limited to individuals. Coloring is a great team activity that increases mindfulness in the workplace. It's no secret that a less stressful culture promotes employee well-being while increasing productivity -- as a team. Through our contest, I found coloring to be a unique way to understand more about my team’s personality and leadership traits.
I also realized that the way a person colors can exemplify how he or she approaches work and feels about innovation and leadership. Here are five coloring techniques and what I believe (not being a professional therapist) they say about your team members:
Following the pattern and coloring the picture as it should be. These team members are your analytical problem-solvers. They like to play by-the-book and take a results-driven approach to their work. You can count on them to get tasks done right and on time.
Changing up the colors. These are your marketers and creative minds. These individuals like to think differently and infuse creativity into their work. You can count on them to come up with new ideas and strategies to drive your projects.
Outlining before filling in. These are your operations and process leads. These individuals enjoy structure and prefer to pursue the most effective paths to high-quality results. You can count on them to develop efficient processes that increase productivity and improve internal operations.
Not finishing their design. These team members are your sales and communication advocates. They thrive on making connections and, on coloring day, likely enjoyed spending their time chatting with their work colleagues. You can count on them to develop client relationships and foster networks.
Coloring outside of the lines. These are your founders and innovators. These individuals are big-picture thinkers and enjoy breaking the mold or being different. You can count on them to drive your innovation and continually think of new ways to improve your business.
Some of the most innovative companies in the world embrace creativity as a pillar of their workplace culture. Take Google, an employer noted for its innovation and engaging workplace environment: Google has dozens of play-areas for its employees, including gourmet cafeterias, cafes and outdoor terraces. All of this is done in an effort to push the boundaries of the workplace and create the "happiest employees in the world."
Facebook, similarly worked its employees into the design stages of its headquarters. Using its own technology, Facebook asked employees what they wanted to see in the office and then made it happen. This led to an office that features a full skate park, a DJ booth and entire rooms built for rest and relaxation. Throw in the fact that the company's main headquarters is located in the heart of Palo Alto, and you have a winning combination for increased employee morale and well-being.
Of course, it's easier to provide these workplace amenities when your company's estimated worth is almost $600 billion. The philosophy of supporting a positive, creative culture where employee well-being is prioritized, however, is something startups can embrace at any financial level.
This can mean adding in something as big as volleyball courts outside your office, or as small as running a creative coloring contest on International of Happiness, to help your employees unwind and have fun.
It’s not the size of activity that matters as much as the quality of the opportunity, making it easy for employees to talk and learn more about each other and improve the quality of your culture, overall.