Social connection is essential to the human experience – we need it in our professional lives as much as we need it in our personal lives. Here are some tips for bringing fun into the workplace to create an enjoyable environment and improve employee retention.
By Zephyr Connects
When you first meet someone, what are the questions you ask? Depending on the context, you probably inquire about what they do for a living. Why? Because for better or worse, how we earn an income is an enormous part of our lives. By some estimates, we spend a third of our lives working.
As we covered in a previous blog, MIT Sloan Management Review recently published research entitled Toxic Culture Is Driving the Great Resignation. Researchers reviewed the online profiles of 34 million employees who left their jobs between April and September of 2021 for any reason. Their research uncovered the top reasons employees leave their jobs and outlined short-term ways employers could retain their team. One of those top strategies includes offering social events.
This research validated much of what I have been saying for over three decades – that work culture matters, being happy at work is important, and people should be treated like the human beings they are.
Employees are people and they want to feel like their contributions matter to their workplace. You cannot shed your humanity when you go into the office. Social connection is essential to the human experience – we need it in our professional lives as much as we need it in our personal.
Offering social connection opportunities is not only important for the mental health and happiness of your team, but it also supports the success of your business. Employees who like each other work better together, treat each other with respect, contribute to a positive work culture, and stay at their jobs longer. MIT Sloan’s researchers found that company-sponsored social events were 1.3 times more powerful to predict retention than compensation.
Having fun is a value we hold dear at Zephyr Connects, but we know it can feel daunting (and conjure up middle school fears of having a party no one comes to) for many business owners. So, we wanted to share some best practices to get you started:
- Be intentional in your planning. When you start planning, be mindful of your staff, their personalities, and interests and try to identify what will appeal to most of them. Send surveys if you don’t know. You’ll have to be more creative with a virtual team, but it is still doable. If it’s your first time doing it, aim for a curated, organized event because the structure might help more people feel comfortable participating.
- Set expectations and lead by example. Rule number one: DO NOT TALK ABOUT WORK! At first, this might be hard because that’s what brought everyone together. But as the host, you must play by the rules and lovingly chide anyone who disobeys. Encourage people to connect with those they don’t often work with. Be the social connector if you need to.
- Mix it up. Try a variety of options to give everyone something they would enjoy and feel comfortable doing. It’s almost impossible to please everyone, especially if your team is large. It’s OK if it doesn’t turn out the way you hoped, because it will still be a learning opportunity and your team will appreciate your effort. Also try to offer events at different times. Not everyone can make events right after work and weekends are even harder. When possible, carve out time during the workday.
- Keep it optional. Let your team know they don’t have to participate in every event. However, if you have some team members who consistently don’t attend even after you have solicited suggestions and offered a variety of activities, it could be a good conversation starter. They could be experiencing a challenge that comes to light, giving you the chance to solve a problem you weren’t aware of.
- Keep it up. Having a healthy social engagement program at your company takes time and commitment. We recommend you aim for at least one social event per quarter. Naming a staff member to head the effort will help maintain consistency. We also recently launched our Loyalty Lab service, where we do it all for you.
At Zephyr, we live by the adage that life is too short not to enjoy what you do. We believe wholeheartedly that the effort you put into social engagement at your company will be rewarded with happier, more productive employees who want to stick with you for the long haul. We offer some tools to help make it a bit easier for you, or we’d love to talk to you more about our Loyalty Lab service.
Erin Longmoon is the CEO of Zephyr Connects, which she founded in response to her clients’ needs for help in with building effective and successful teams. Zephyr Connects serves the small business community – the mom-and-pop places that are the backbones of our communities and our economy.