When a Mandatory Office Party Kills the Spirits, Follow ezCater’s Ideas
- Sarah Gurr
- 3 Min Read
Most people will tell you that there’s no better way to kill the spirits than with a mandatory office party involving plastic ornaments strung around the cubicles. (A mandatory employee-contribution pool for purchasing food and drinks is a close second.) When “fun” is dictated by an office memo, the staff feels less liberated, and more badgered, by these rah-rah exercises.
“When it’s forced, it’s not fun,” said Kate Zabriskie in a New York Times article about the limits of conventional office-party celebration ideas. Zabriskie is president of Business Training Works, a Washington consulting firm that specializes in business etiquette.
At ezCater, we’re no technical wizards of fun, but one of our priorities has been maintaining our unique company culture. We don’t believe in overdoing it—we have no climbing walls or giant slides or stress-monitoring arcade games (we wish!)—but we’ve found a few affordable and surprisingly effective (and fun) alternatives to those typical office-party ideas for building morale. Here’s some of them.
Tasty, Free Lunch
There is plenty of advice on improving morale, but the tricks we pull (aside from a recent ski trip we organized for our staff) are actually quite simple—and thus elegant—like the platters of pancakes or dim sum we serve our employees. Some time ago we adopted a breakfast and lunch program whereby we order breakfast and lunch for our employees once a week. We take turns placing the catering orders so that once a year every member of our team gets to eat exactly what he or she wants. Plus, this helps to change up the menu every week, too. The company picks up the tab, of course, and we pick up after ourselves. The effect on morale has been amazing. Everyone stands in line, chit-chats, grabs lunch, and eats. We think this is better than all the other tired office-party ideas. It’s funny how spending a few dollars on each person can make the whole company sing our praises.
Forget Stale Office-Party Ideas. Hand Out Those Golden Cupcakes
There’s a lot to like in a little cupcake. Even a symbolic, inedible cupcake. We give out our cupcake awards year-round in our office in Boston. People who witness their teammates accomplish something awesome are encouraged to dole out these “cupcakes” in recognition of hard work. The cupcake nominations are seen by the entire company—maybe Desiree gets a cupcake for being insanely helpful, and Lauren gets one for always “owning it” and figuring it out. The point is that the whole community acknowledges the endeavors of their teammates, and positive energy is released. This awesome news comes with a photoshoot, too, ezCater style.
Now, the Real Cupcakes
Our kitchen is stacked with snacks. Open the refrigerator and you’ll find an elegant tiered cake (yes, sometimes cupcakes) and rows of yogurt. Our cupboards come filled with a bountiful assortment of savory and sweet tidbits, including coconut chips, turkey jerky, and cookies. Offering free snacks is another small thing that we do to build morale. You can just see people smile, and you can tell they feel appreciated.
Once a month departments file into the kitchen for “tea time.” Everyone delights in the company of their coworkers while enjoying complimentary cappuccinos, tea, and snacks. Tea time is one of our favorite alternatives to those typical office-party ideas. We’ve found that these informal tea-time sessions can help boost morale, forge stronger relationships between employees, and help workers feel valued and appreciated. Within the half hour, everyone is back to work analyzing marketing strategies or designing product logos.
Yes Beer, Yes Work (One of Our Many Great Anti-Office-Party Ideas)
On Fridays, the workday begins unfailingly at 9 a.m. Then we have lunch, and by 4 p.m. we round off the productive day with delicious craft beer. Every Friday at beer o’clock, we invite our team to the kitchen-turned-lounge on the fourth floor for beer. It’s a way for us to blow off steam and hang out with all the cool people we work with daily. These events have always been an integral part of our office vibe.
Sometimes it’s not about the amenities we give to our team, and more about what we do together. Sometimes we walk together to raise funds for hunger-relief programs. Other times we volunteer together at local nonprofit organizations. These activities help us to build a common culture for our company.
Many of these ideas (AKA office-party alternatives) are simple ways to turn around company morale. Do what you can based on your budget and build strong, positive relationships with your employees over the years.
Tasty, free lunch never feels forced. Want to boost morale this afternoon with catering?