Labor Day is more than a great excuse for a long weekend or the unofficial end of summer. The first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City on September 5, 1882 (a Tuesday) by the Central Labor Union. The original proposal for the holiday called for a parade to celebrate “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations”.
What better way to celebrate the “esprit de corps” (commonly translated to “morale”) of the workforce than to find fun ways to reward your hard working teams and bring people together? I asked our whole team to share some of their favorite “morale boosters”.
The Five O’Clock Boogie
In a previous role as a consultant, we went through a period of about four weeks where our entire team was working from 7 AM to 11 PM every day to meet development deadlines, conduct training and complete testing. With those crazy long days, we needed to find ways to lighten up – and we instituted the 5 O’Clock Boogie.
Every day at 5 PM, a different team member would be tasked with picking a song – and we’d dance. (Okay, most of the team just stood around and hung out for a mandatory 15 minute break – but some of us would dance.) We order dinner, we’d relax, we’d recharge – and then we’d get back the work we needed to do to finish the day. – Chris
Rewarding Effort and Loyalty
I am not a big proponent of the “morale booster” mentality, but prefer to think of things to reward team members for effort and loyalty. Once, during a very tiresome and exhausting crunch, I gave our lead developer (who was working 70+ hour weeks) $50 and certificate for two to an exclusive restaurant. I told him that the $50 was for the baby-sitter, even if it is your mother…she still gets the $50. The certificate was for him and his wife. To this day, he still tells me that was the nicest thing any boss has done for him. – Dennis
10,000 Steps per Day
One of my previous employers and my manager, in particular, placed a high value on health and wellness. Even before the company started a promotion to encourage employees to walk 10,000 steps per day (measured by company-issued pedometers), my manager held most one-on-one meetings and some team meetings outside while walking the streets, hills and trails around town. Of course, some of the talk would have nothing to do with work, but we actually got work done and decisions made on these walks, too!
The practice, in general, was one that I looked forward to each week. Our walking meetings gave us an opportunity to breathe some fresh air, connect with each other and to enjoy the head clearing benefits of exercise all while addressing the questions of the day or week. – Steph
My favorite morale boosters involve food! Potlucks, team lunches…time to just eat together and relax, talk fun stuff and forget about work for an hour or so. (Although with potlucks, it’s difficult to concentrate in the morning because the food is warming and smells SOOOO good! :-)) – Terri
At a previous employer, we had a number of toys in the office (stress-relief balls, slinkies, “Easy” buttons). These would inevitably become part of some inner office entertainment at the end of the day after we finished closing our tickets. At one point, we had a stuffed “Angry Bird” floating around the office that became part of a “got you last” game if it touched you before you left. We got some good laughs when co-workers would be walking past and an Angry Bird would come flying across a bunch of cubicles! – Greg
A Game of If
When our team gathers together for informal lunches, there is no shortage of conversation – but the topics inevitably turn to sports, television or movies. In an effort to get everyone to get to know each other even better, one of our team members started to bring “ice breaker” questions. Everyone at the table takes their turn in answering questions like “If you had unlimited time and money, where would you travel and what would you do?”, “If you could be any fictional character, who would it be?”, or “If you are stuck on a deserted island with only three albums to listen to for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?”
Nothing energizes a team more than arguing the relative merits of the Beatles White album versus the Beastie Boys License to Ill. – Chris
Winner Take All…or Half
Involving the office in friendly competition – particularly if there are prizes involved – is always a good time. During an NCAA tournament, our team had a contest. Every team member filled out their bracket – whether they were a fan or not – and the winner got to take an extra 1/2 day off at their convenience. (And for the record, I’m not a fan of the “If” game! It’s too much pressure.) – John
Of course, no morale booster takes the place of having a fantastic team of people who are committed to a common goal, invested in each other, and proud of the work that they are accomplishing. But sometimes you just need to take a few minutes to boogie.