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holidays in the office

5 Fun Holiday Traditions to Start in Your Office This Year

The holidays are a perfect time to have fun with employees and show them a good time. If you’re throwing a holiday party, don’t stop there—54 percent of employees want to feel more “holiday spirit in the workplace,” according to a recent Randstad survey—so start some fun new traditions this year.

If you’re not sure what to do, consider these fun ideas. They’ll keep employees excited all season long, while connecting co-workers and getting everyone into the holiday spirit.

  1. Cook-Off Competition

Who’s the best cook in the office? Find out by pitting your foodie coworkers against each other in a holiday cook-off competition. The first step in organizing your first-annual cook-off is to decide what employees will cook. Choose something fun, like:

  • The best cup of hot chocolate
  • The best holiday cookie
  • The best holiday side dish
  • The best cup of egg nog

The prize? A year’s worth of bragging rights. Perhaps the winner walks away with the “World’s Best Office Chef” trophy, a recognition spotlight, or mug to keep at his or her desk until next year.

  1. White Elephant Gift Exchange

A white elephant gift exchange is similar to a Yankee Swap, but in this case, the focus is on “stealing” gifts rather than swapping them—making it a lot more fun. The good news is: this old holiday tradition is still very relevant. After all, 56 percent of holiday shoppers report buying gag gifts for family or office exchanges, according to the Holidaze 2018 poll.

Host the gift exchange on an afternoon in the office, allowing employees to have some fun on the company clock. Plus, if spouses are at the holiday party, it may be difficult to do the exchange. Not to mention, some employees may not be able to make the party, so this ensures everyone can participate.

  1. Charity Outing

Did you know that 75 percent of employees want to see their company give back this time of year by donating to food drives or charities?

A fun way to celebrate the holidays with your office is by doing exactly that, giving back to the local community. Not only does this bode well for your brand, but your employees get more than just a fun party—giving back increases feelings of purpose, which leads to better sleep and a longer life, as reported by Forbes.

You can host a food drive in the office, or turn it into a group event, volunteering at a local non-profit. cCook a meal for a homeless shelter or host a holiday party at the local Boys and Girls Club. If you’re looking for more options, consider these non-profits:

  • Meals on Wheels
  • Feeding America
  • Ronald McDonald House
  • Local Children’s Hospitals
  • Local Senior Citizens Homes
  1. Gingerbread House Contest

There’s nothing that screams holiday more than a gingerbread house contest. Gingerbread house kits can be costly, so spilt your office or department into teams.

Each team will be responsible for making a gingerbread house within a certain period of time, say 30 minutes. To make it even more fun, set out bowls of extra fixings, like hard candy, sprinkles, and even non-edible elements like mini Santas, reindeer, menorahs, etc. for team members to spruce up their gingerbread houses.

In addition to being fun, this kind of holiday tradition is great for building teamwork and communication skills—while no one’s even thinking about it.

  1. Ugly Sweater Day

The same Holidaze 2018 poll found that 92 percent of shoppers spend between $25 and $50 on an ugly holiday sweater—so give them a reason to wear it with an official Ugly Sweater Day in the office.

To make your Ugly Sweater Day tradition more fun, give away a variety of awards. For example, you may give awards for:

  • Ugliest Sweater
  • Most Creative Sweater
  • Least Ugly Sweater
  • Classiest Ugly Sweater

The prize for these could be the same as the others: a trophy for bragging rights all year long. You could also buy inexpensive stocking stuffers to give as prizes or reward winners with monetary points in a recognition program.

Your Office Holiday Traditions

Have fun with the holidays this year. Don’t just throw a party—celebrate for the entire season with fun contests, gift giving and an official Ugly Sweater Day. Your employees will enjoy having some holiday fun after a long year of hard work and dedication.

To learn more ways to engage your employees during the holidays, check out this blog post.

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About the Author
Jessica ThiefelsJessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a professional blogger and freelance writer. She spent the last two years working tirelessly for a small startup, where she learned a lot about running business and being resourceful. She now owns her own business and has been featured on Forbes. She’s also written for StartupNation, Manta, Glassdoor and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 or connect on LinkedIn.

 

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How to Plan Employee Engagement Contests That All Your Teams Will Love

Thirty-three percent. It’s a fairly low number. We wouldn’t want to see that number for our customer satisfaction or client retention rates. But that’s the number of American workers who report being engaged at work. And if a figure that low isn’t acceptable when it comes to our clients, it shouldn’t be acceptable when it comes to employees either. Low engagement leads to poor performance, dissatisfaction, and higher turnover. But there are ways to combat this disengagement. Employment engagement contests help keep people motivated and gives everyone a common goal beyond just doing well at work. You want to make sure your contests are inclusive of everyone within your organization, regardless of department or job title.

Here are a few tips for building employee engagement contests that everyone will love.

Get Out of the Office

When you have different departments with different goals and responsibilities, it can be hard to manage an in-office contest. You can’t pit them against each other to see who can close the most sales or enter the most data, because there will be very clear winners before they even begin. Instead, focus on contests that everyone can reasonably participate in, regardless of their job title or skills.

This often means getting out of the office. Though you might have the time, budget, and resources to execute numerous company outings, planning even a single event a year where employees can get together outside of work for a little friendly competition can help make everyone feel a little more engaged within the company. Do trivia at a bar, play a few rounds of mini-golf, or even see which department can collect the most cans for a community food drive.

Ask Employees What They Want

Employment engagement contests are only effective if they are actually engaging. While no one idea will likely ever satisfy every single employee, it is still a good idea to at least try and get a good idea of what your employees might like to do. After all, this about them.

An employee-led committee to plan contests can incorporate employees from various departments to make sure everyone is represented.  Or you can even use surveys to help you figure out what kinds of contests everyone might be interested in. Most enterprise chat systems have polling features built in. And many HR suites offer employee feedback tools like surveying as well.

Not everyone will excel in every single contest. But you should have a pretty decent understanding of your employees that allows you to tailor your contests for a high chance of success. Contests are a lot less motivating when few participants can succeed. Make sure everyone is gaining something.

Make it Regular

Of course, you can’t host one contest and expect everyone to remain engaged long term.

To keep employees engaged, contests should become regular events.  As is the case with anything good, you don’t want to overdo it. But you also don’t want to introduce your employees to something they enjoy only to never bring it back. Then they’ll just be demoralized on top of being disengaged.

Establish what “regular” means for you and what works for your organization, then stick with.

Whether it’s once a year or twice a week, having something consistent to look forward to always makes work a little more enjoyable. Plus, the more regular these inter-departmental contests are, the most opportunities employees have to mingle and get to know each other.

Reward Teams for Little Tasks

Rewards can go a long way and the be the incentive your employees need to go the extra mile. Come up with contests that involve everyone doing their job but aren’t dependent on specific positions. For example, everyone, regardless of position, should be showing up to work on time. So consider building a contest around perfect attendance and punctuality. Even something as simple as free lunch for the entire floor if the dishwasher gets loaded and unloaded for 30 days in a row can engage employees around a common cause.

Show Off the Results

There’s nothing more frustrating than doing something well and getting no recognition. No matter what kind of contest you decide on, consider displaying the results somewhere or sending them out to the whole team. It’s important to recognize and reward employees for their participation.

You can keep a leaderboard in the break room or leverage a recognition platform to showcase results so that those who didn’t win will be encouraged to work harder next time, and those who did win can appreciate their own victory.

Implement Initiatives to Help With Goals

Have departments in the office compete and see who can hit the gym after work the most days per week or eat the most fruits and veggies for lunch? Is a group of employees working together to raise the most money for a local charity? Help these freelance efforts out! Initiatives like a company-sponsored gym membership, catered lunches, or charitable giving matching can all help employees reach their own goal. Even simple acts like these can increase employee engagement.

Hold Managers Accountable

Getting different departments on board for a contest can be tough. Making sure everyone is involved can make it a little easier. Managers need to set the example for other employees by participating in contests, and by giving it their all.

Seeing managers compete can be good motivation for employees to step up their own game, and the idea of winning a competition against their boss might make people work even harder!

Finally, Be Proactive

The best way to maintain employee engagement is to never lose it in the first place. This is easier said than done, of course, but you should be taking steps to ensure that every employee is engaged from day one, and that they all stay that way.

No matter the age, everyone likes the chance to have some fun at work. Incorporating simple contests into the daily routine can be incredibly effective in helping your teams bond and work better together.

Learn more about what incentives to offer in your next employee engagement contest by accessing Achievers’ e-book: “How to Incentivize the Modern Workforce.

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Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.

About the Author
Laura HudgensLaura Hudgens is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com. She is a communications instructor and freelance writer who studies and writes about technology, media, science, and health.

 

 

 

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Open Office

Thinking of an Open Office? Read This First

Companies are trying to find a workspace setup that increases employee productivity. Meanwhile, the employees are hoping that they will be allowed to concentrate or collaborate as needed and still escape unnecessary distractions. Getting the design of an office right can be hard – it is clearly a moving target. Let’s take a look back at the history of office design. In 1964, a Herman Miller executive, Robert Propst, came up with the idea of the office cubicle. It was a reaction to the open office setups of the 1950s which were felt to be too noisy and lacking in privacy.

1960 officeA 1960s escape from the vast open office layout.

The office cubicle found huge adoption in the following decades, giving workers an office layout that was often an immense field of cubicles as far as the eye could see – as was so effectively lampooned in both the movie Office Space and the comic strip Dilbert.

office spaceRon Livingston, David Herman And Ajay Naidu take their revenge on their nemesis, the office  fax machine in a scene from “Office Space”. Source: Getty Images.

To break away from the office cubicle layout, companies started moving back toward a variation on of open-plan offices taken from the 1950s. Open-plan offices have become increasingly popular and make up approximately 70 percent of all offices. Understanding the history behind these changes to office design can help businesses make informed choices about what to implement in their own setup, and how the physical space of the office affects employee happiness and engagement.

open officeFed up with working in an open-plan office? You’re probably not alone. Source: Photofusion/Rex Features.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Open Office Layouts

The Good:

An open office layout can help increase the amount of day-to-day communication. Instead of having a meeting or walking to another cube, one desk occupant can simply talk across to the next. Beyond being able to hear the neighbor, one can also see if they are (1) at the desk and (2) if they are likely to be available – not on the phone or in a conference.

The flexibility of an open office helps to break down the barriers between departments and hierarchies. With more chances to interact, teams can grow closer organically. Spontaneous lunch outings become more common, which can increase employee engagement and overall happiness. Familiarity in a non-work setting helps to build trust in coworkers and communication across departments. In an extreme example from my personal experience, a software company I worked at would stop work Friday afternoons to allow the entire staff to play games or just hang out. The open office and companion culture at this company helped developers, marketers, and even C-levels communicate better as a team.

The Bad:

On the flip side, what if an important report has to be done by 5pm on a Friday while the other 20 people in the office are laughing and carrying on? The noise becomes a problem without sound barriers provided by cubicles and closed doors.

In an open office, sometimes every phone call becomes anathema and the guy who used to be the water cooler pundit is always too loud and too close. A survey by Oxford Economics on open office plans said that 53% of those surveyed were less productive when they could hear ambient noise. Another study took this further and found that noisy offices can impair your ability to recall information or do basic math.

The Ugly:

The look of an office separated into cubicles is great if you love that grey and drab with bad lighting aesthetic. However, you have that physical and sound barrier between you and your coworkers. The open office layout removed those barriers allowing you to see and collaborate with your coworkers. This is its main selling point, well, that–and it often gives the office clean, trendy lines. The introverted and those sensitive to sound will quickly notice the drawbacks to all this openness.

There Are Always Trade-Offs

Pro: You Can See the Colleague You Want to Engage With

In one open office layout I sat directly across from the COO and very close to a Director in another. It’s nice to be able to see them and talk to them quickly without having to find their office and knock or wait for the door to be open, which makes you feel like another task in their project management software. The playing field does seem a bit more level without closed doors and formal meetings.

Con: You Might Hear or See Something You’d Rather Not

However, there are some times when privacy is necessary. In a phone-free workplace, I would need to take my cell phone call somewhere else. Also those managers would need to find a location for their reviews and interviews to maintain the privacy of their meeting and save the other workers from that extra noise. “And for introverts, an open office can be an especially dark place. Constantly interacting with other humans can be exhausting.” In her popular TED talk on how our workplaces are designed for extroverts, Susan Cain, author of Quiet, explains this powerfully. She notes that “modern offices have the collaboration element well taken care of, but they’re neglecting the concentration and the contemplation.”

Office Layouts Depend on Your Culture

“People feel more connected to a workplace where they have the ability to shape their work environment and decide when and where they’re going to work. This freedom increased the likelihood that workers were happy with their jobs by 12 percent and increased overall job performance.” – Nicole Coughlin of Knoll Activity Spaces 

The real key to designing the right office layout is understanding that all your employees are different. Each will have slightly different needs and work styles. If you decide to move forward with an open office you should try to make it balanced with a number of offerings for privacy and quiet. Here are some office suggestions:

  • Work-a-Day Normal Desks: Give employees the option to move around the office if need be, whether it’s a sitting, standing or adjustable desks.
  • Large Tables: Let employees gather together and work at one large table together. This can encourage collaboration and team building.
  • Conference Rooms: Sometimes all it takes is a closed door to give some much needed privacy.
  • Phone Booths: Private booths are a great alternative for conference calls or recorded trainings.
  • Couches: Who doesn’t like a comfortable couch to change things up? Let employees kick their feet back while they get work done.
  • Multiple Lighting Options: Some employees don’t like overhead lights and some do. Have the option of lighting up one zone with and another without.

Choosing between an open office or a layout that provides a little more privacy doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Remember to think about what works for your company, its culture, and the amount and types of engagement you want among your employees. Defining these pieces before redesigning your office setup will ensure you choose the office space that works for your team.

Are you delivering an unbeatable employee experience? Discover how to engage your employees with personalization, the missing link in employee experience. Access Achievers’ white paper to learn more.

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About the Author
Steve Medeiros Steve Medeiros is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com. He has an extensive background in technology, software, and customer support. Find him on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

 

Mindfulness at Work

4 Tips: How to Cultivate Mindfulness at Work

Mindfulness by definition is, “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Seems simple enough, right?

However, achieving a state of mindfulness as defined above, while balancing the busy schedule of a working professional seems like another impossible task on the grand to-do list. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the health and wellness industry hit a record high of $3.4 trillion dollars in 2014, and that number continues to grow as more and more businesses seek to launch health and wellness initiatives of their own.

While mindfulness is a highly personal state of being, to me, it is the feeling of being more aware of myself and what’s happening around me. This takes dedication and a willingness to be fully aware of even the most-minute aspects of my daily life, both at home and at work. Mindfulness can give you the tools to handle the ups and downs of office culture. No matter how you achieve it, once you experience the effects of having a mindfulness practice, it can help you to successfully navigate all areas of your life.

To get started, here are four areas of focus that will help cultivate a mindfulness practice within the office:

  1. Awareness and Breath

Despite the ubiquity of health and wellness programs in contemporary office culture, it feels as though our society is more stressed than ever. Most of us work at least 40 to 50 hours a week, and then juggle personal tasks like looking after kids/pets, rushing to the gym, staying in touch with friends, a monthly book (read: wine) club, etc.

Our lives get so jammed packed, we need multiple calendars just to keep up with it all. The American Psychological Association found that “…money and work are the top two sources of very or somewhat significant stress (67 percent and 65 percent in 2015.)”

Next time you are feeling overwhelmed or out of control, take a few minutes to simply take some deep breaths. By completing the easy task of breathing, you are already more mindful because you acknowledged how stressed you felt before reacting. From there, take it one step further by aiming for balanced breath; equal lengths of inhaling and exhaling through the nose.

While continuing this breathing exercise, observe how the signs of stress in your body reveal themselves. Were your shoulders up to your ears? Was your jaw clenched? Is your breath short and chest tight?

After you’ve identified the symptoms of stress, try to relax that specific area of tension by at least 20%. As little as 2-5 minutes of controlled breathing will bring you to a greater state of control over your feelings and help take your physical being out of fight or flight mode. By increasing circulation to the brain and slowing your heart rate, you’ll have greater clarity, allowing you to better assess the situation at hand. If you would like to go one step further and give meditation a try, Headspace is a great app for beginners.

  1. Forgive Yourself

Gary Hamel, one of the world’s most influential business thinkers said, “You can’t build an adaptable organization without adaptable people.” To me, the essence of this quote is understanding that none of us are superheroes; it can be very difficult to finish everything within the work day and still live a balanced, healthy personal life.  This is why it is crucial to let go of any emotional baggage you might carry with you, in both your personal and professional life.

Forgiving yourself when things are not going as planned is critical in accepting the way things truly are and gives us the ability to move forward toward a more productive mindset. Feeling guilty, mad or frustrated can render us unwilling to be open-minded.

Instead, use this as a learning experience to reflect on what you can do better next time these feelings of frustration emerge, focusing on understanding why the end goal is important and then letting go of whatever is out of your control. Flexibility within the workplace is key to success, regardless of the environment in which you work. Behind every great person, company or business success, there was probably a moment where the prospect of failure was faced and overcome. The difference between losing and victory was likely a reinvention or evolution of an approach that turned failure into triumph. So make a conscious effort to learn from difficult situations in the moment and then, let go.

  1. Lighten Up

If you’re a “Yes Person” like me, your workload can rapidly become overwhelming. One way to counteract the weight of a stressful week at work is to lighten up and laugh more often. If you’re laughing while reading this, you’re off to a great start.

We’ve all had moments when things took a wrong turn and it feels like the WORST has happened. In these situations, it’s hard to remove the typical ‘should have, could have, would have’ narrative that is on constant loop in your mind. Next time, break the habit of being hard on yourself by focusing on a positive aspect. Ask yourself: what is it that is making me so upset? Why do I feel like this is so important?

Once you have answered the questions above, approach this situation with gratitude for what you DO have, it will likely help illuminate the problem and help reshape your frame of mind from “this is what I need to do… [Fill in what you are dreading]” to “this is what I want to do because… [Fill in what you are grateful for.]”

If you still need a lift, reach out to your colleagues; the people around you are there for support and will offer much needed perceptive on some of the challenges you’re facing.

  1. Recognize Others

The average American spends over 2,000 hours a year in the office, which means aside from sleep, we are spending more time with co-workers than anyone else in our lives. This is why ‘working with great people’ is such an important core value for many working professionals.

Recognizing the fact that your team plays a major part in creating a positive office environment is crucial for work happiness. Treating work relationships with mindfulness will open your eyes to the great things people are doing around you every day.

In, The Neuroscience of Trust, published by The Harvard Business Review, the author states, “Neuroscience experiments by my lab show that when people intentionally build social ties at work, their performance improves.”

A Google study similarly found that managers who, “express interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being outperform others in the quality and quantity of their work.”

In the daily flow of work, a simple ‘thank you’ can go a long way to boost morale. A company that fosters a culture of mindful employees leads to a team that is recognizing, communicating and celebrating the accomplishments that make the organization successful. Increased employee mindfulness will also contribute to reduced stress, increased productivity and a better bottom line for the company; a win-win for all.

For more information on creating a culture of recognition, check out this ebook on Recognition Culture: The MVP of Employee Experience.

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About the Author
Phoebe Licata
Phoebe Licata is a Customer Success Manager at Achievers by day and inspirational yogi by night. Her endless positivity propels her along her journey of consulting with companies on their employee engagement and rewards and recognition strategies. Connect with her on LinkedIn.