Ah, summer . . . Sadly, it's gone, meaning most of us are back to work full-time, and recommitting to what "work" means in our national culture.
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Specifically: If you’ve ever joked about "living" at the office, you’re probably not surprised to read that the average employed American spends about 68 percent of his or her waking hours working, and only about 20 percent on recreation.
Employed people, in 2016, clocked in an average 7.63 hours on the job, according to the American Bureau of Labor Statistics, significantly more than the 1.42 hours spent caring for family members and 1.17 hours spent eating and drinking.
This is just one reason why employees this time of year may be restless and why it’s important for business leaders to show that the efforts of their employees are valued and contribute to the company’s success.
Here are some of our favorite team-building activities at SignUpGenius to help shape a positive company culture and form meaningful connections with co-workers.
1. Rethink lunch.
Even if employees usually eat lunch at their desks, reward your team with an occasional midday event. Schedule a cooking class off site where your staff can prepare and enjoy a delicious meal. Plan a series of catered “lunch and learns,” where team members or local experts can share their expertise on topics related to work or life.
You can also plan a midday relaxation session by bringing in a yoga or meditation instructor to lead a class, and offer free chair massages. At SignUpGenius, we are big fans of spending breaks together. Whether that kind of social time is an ice cream social or a company picnic, it helps build a strong team.
2. Break the ice.
Kick off company meetings with conversation starters to help employees get to know one other better. Ask out-of-the-box questions like “What job would you be terrible at?” or, “If you could live in any city, where would it be, and why?” You can also ask employees to write down a little-known fact about themselves on a whiteboard before a meeting, then let everyone have fun guessing who belongs to each secret. These icebreakers will guarantee some laughs and reveal more about people's other’s lives outside the office.
3. Present paper plate awards.
Think back to those senior superlatives from your high school yearbook -- "best dressed," "cleanest desk," most likely to survive a zombie apocalypse" -- then take them to your office. Think of a creative award for each employee and present these honors during a meeting or lunch, for a good laugh among coworkers.
You can also have employees vote on each award to increase participation. Coworkers will get to know one other better while looking for those unique qualities -- and might even find shared interests.
4. Assign a non-work-related “presentation.”
Assigning groups fun topics, to create presentations for a company event, is a great way to generate collaboration among employees who typically might not work together. Try something like “How to convince the CEO to give up her parking spot” or “How to make a five-star meal out of items in the office pantry.” This is also a great activity to calm nerves if you have any anxious presenters in your company.
And who knows? You just might convince the CEO to share ther prime parking spot or prompt management to stock the pantry with some extra snacks.
5. Tap into your inner child.
Help your employees let loose, by organizing an office field day, complete with potato sack races, tug-of-war and water balloon fights. Find a nearby outdoor location and give everyone a break away from work to team up outside of the conference room walls. One of our favorite events at has been a competitive game of Capture the Flag -- the H2O version, that is. We believe you are never too old to play your favorite childhood games. It’s a great way to clear your mind of work stress and have fun with co-workers.
6. Volunteer together.
Organizing a group outing to volunteer together will give your team the opportunity to get to know one other and give back to the community. Even if you can spare only a few hours to sort food at a local food pantry or help out at an animal shelter, a nonprofit will greatly appreciate your contributions.
If going off-location isn’t a fit for your company, try hosting a drive to collect school supplies or food for families in need. Our company prioritizes giving back to the community through regular donations and volunteering.
7. Switch up the dress code.
In our office, we love wearing costumes for Halloween -- but you don’t have to limit yourself to holidays to allow a change in dress code. Try inserting some more fun into the workplace by creating themed dress days: funny T-shirts, crazy socks or sports rivals, for example. This is something you can get creative with, so ask your team for some suggestions. It’s especially fun to plan dress up days during a busy time for your company and award prizes to employees who show the most spirit.
8. Find adventure off-site.
Close the office for a few hours in the afternoon and challenge employees to get out of their comfort zones. Whether you try to work your way out of an escape room or hang in the balance on a ropes course, your team will bond, as they work together to problem solve or cheer for one another. A scavenger hunt is another fun activity that is easy to plan in your office neighborhood; it also provides plenty of photo opportunities as each team races to find the most items on their list.
Team-building is a win-win for your company, bringing fun to the workplace and giving employees the chance to learn one other’s strengths and personalities. Making team-building part of your office culture will cultivate an environment where people want to invest their time each day -- through fall, winter, spring and all the way up to vacation time next summer.