As you make your way to your desk, no one talks, no one says good morning. Heads are down, either working or miserably getting through the day. It’s hard to keep your spirits up in that kind of work environment. You’ve tried a few things to increase morale, like bringing in cupcakes or donuts, but nothing really changes. You want to have some fun at work, and you wish laughter and connection were a part of the deal.
Here are a few ideas that have worked well for boosting morale and energy in my office. Try ‘em out, and if something flops, then try something else. You’ll feel the vibe lift when it starts to work.
1. Start a Random Lunch Program.
Randomly select up to six people from your office to go for lunch together. Allow anyone to be a part of it, but make it optional. One person is the “Lunch Master” who ultimately schedules the lunch and finalizes a place to go. I use free tools like Random Name Picker to pick names and Doodle to agree on a day that works for everyone.
At my company, the most senior person is reimbursed by the company for the bill. If your company isn’t willing to pay for it, then have each person budget $20 or $25 for themselves.
2. Start discussions.
Talk about things unrelated to work, and extend out from the origin of the discussion to pollinate the office. A way to start getting people talking and thinking is to host a lunch-and-learn in your conference room. You can get a list of ideas of topics people might like to present on, like ergonomics, personal finance, yoga, or meditation. Have people sign up to present on these topics every month or two, then invite the office staff for the free, optional lunch-and-learn. There will always be a new topic on the way, and you can invite people to contribute ideas.
3. Be a connector.
The connectors of the world are the ones that are missed the most when they’re not there. If you’re the person who organizes the random lunch or the lunch-and-learns, you will be missed if you leave. You can become an integral part of the organization and someone they won’t want to lose. Connecting people in any way boosts morale, and people talk about it. I’m speaking from personal experience here!
4. Crowdsource for ideas.
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas that will work for your particular office or group, ask around and crowdsource for answers. No one’s opinion is more relevant than the people whose mood you’re trying to boost. Ask questions casually in the lunch room or kitchen area like, “What would make coming to work better for you?” You may joke around for a bit about more money or better parking spots for the first part of the conversation, and that gets things going. Then you can get down to the more real stuff by saying, “But seriously, what would make this place more fun? Was there anything you did at your previous company or you’ve heard of other companies doing that you wish we’d do here? I’d really like to do some more of x. What about you?”
5. Host an Office Olympics.
There are lots of little challenges that can be done in groups that are a ton of fun. You can run an “Office Olympics” for a few weeks at lunch time, where groups can partake in different challenges. Just because it’s called “Olympics” doesn’t mean that the challenges have to be athletic; not everyone will be comfortable with that. Some can be brain challenges, board game challenges, trivia, or simply trying to move five cotton balls from one glass to another with a dab of Vaseline on your nose. The challenge possibilities can meet the needs of your office and don’t need to be expensive. Depending on what your company can afford for the budget, take the winning team out for lunch, or give them trophies.
The bottom line:
Some companies care about their employees more than others. You have the power to change how you feel at work. You can change moods, patterns, and the environment around you by organizing initiatives. If the company just won’t support any of it, then you can always find a company that will.
Go to someone who will develop a strategy with you to boost morale. Emphasize the benefits that some small expenditures can bring to the turnover and productivity rate. If people are happier at work, then they’re going to do better work for the company. There are lots of studies on employee engagement, and if your boss is a person who understands numbers, then learn to speak that language to get something approved and implemented.
And finally, keep trying until you find something that works. You’ll be the hero because you were the one who finally had the guts to stand up and say, “Hey, this place is depressing — no one talks, no one connects, no one has fun. Let’s do something about this, and I volunteer to get it started.” The world needs more people who are willing to do that.
Natalie Fisher is an enthusiastic HR Generalist who loves her job! She’s been on over 50 interviews and received 48 job offers. Download her free guide: How to Nail an Interview You’re Unqualified For.
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