Quiet office. Uncomfortable shoes. Tight ties. Hair pulled back. Censored chit chat. That’s a lot of tension. When we’re packed like sardines into a professional space from 9 to 5 every day, we get all wound up and wrung out. Sometimes, you’ve just got to let your hair down. Don’t compartmentalize that stress, and don’t compartmentalize your play time. Occasionally unwinding with your colleagues, employees, and supervisors can relieve the pressure you feel at the office and lead to a more comfortable, productive work environment.
Are you worried about mixing business and free time, upsetting your valuable separation of work and life? That never really existed. Stress from work affects your home life, and how you relax after hours affects your job performance. You can never shut one out from the other. A real work/life balance starts by admitting that work is part of life and that rewarding work experiences can have a tremendously positive impact on the rest of your day.
Work Lunches and Dinners
Here is a simple way to get out of the office and enjoy one another’s company. No need to brown bag it every day. Spend a couple bucks on lunch with a coworker. Take your assistant out to show your appreciation. Invite your team to dine with you at your favorite burger joint or Indian restaurant. What’s your town’s best kept dining secret? Indulge with your staff. A simple routine like eating together normalizes staff interactions. You see these folks every day. There’s no reason you can’t all enjoy a meal at the same table.
Hosting Parties at Your Place
“You’ve got to go to the boss’s party, right?” Don’t force your employees to attend your gatherings. And avoid pressuring coworkers to participate. In order to lighten the mood and encourage attendance, invite other guests as well. Ask neighbors or friends to come. Don’t badger anyone, but be sure to send out invitations a week or two in advance.
Provide refreshments. Keep it classy with some wine and cheese, finger food, and sodas. You’re not throwing a rager – there are still boundaries. Plan some tentative entertainment. We’re not talking about scheduling the evening down to the minute. Grab a few board games from the closet and freshen up on the rules. Pick out some safe-for-work comedies or action flicks to put on the TV. Shake your hips to some fun music. If you give the party a vague structure, your work guests will fill more comfortable filling in the scaffolding with conversation and enthusiasm.
Enjoy Community Nature Spots
No matter what the season or where you are, fresh air will do you some good. You can find local parks nearby, but consider making a day of it. Take a drive (or a bike ride) to your nearest national or state park. Find a nature preserve or arboretum where your team can go for a stroll and learn about plants, trees, and wildlife. Some parks are great locations for engaging but pleasant hiking. You don’t want to treat this as a teambuilding activity – it’s not “work.” If the group isn’t having fun, this may not be their kind of outdoors activity.
In the summer and fall, farms and orchards open their fences to the public. Berry fields, pumpkin patches, apple orchards, even fig farms. Picking fruit can be an adventure! In the fall, the fun is tripled by corn mazes and haunted barns. If your region already has a dusting of snow, the old standards of snowball fights and sledding still entertain. How about a company ski trip up North? How about a day at the ice rink? Some arboretums also decorate their trees with lights during the winter months. When summer comes back around, a beach day may be in the cards for your employees. Get out of the cramped office and into some sunblock!
Unwinding at the Office too
We go on vacation to get away from it all. We also go on vacation to appreciate it all. That feeling of coming home after a week of rigorous surf, sun, and relaxation. You bask in the familiarity. Getting back to work can feel the same way after time off, a company picnic, or even a long lunch. How can you make the office more welcoming? You can start by opening it up and encouraging movement. Leave office doors ajar. Bring in healthy snacks to encourage trips to the break room. Talk in person instead of over IM. Instead of going out, have lunch catered for your team.
Once your office space is a place of comfort and openness, spice it up. Bring in a ping pong table or magnetic dart board. Put up a map of the world or your country and invite coworkers to pin where they’ve been. Get a weekly ping pong tournament going. You can make it interesting by offering a gift certificate to a local restaurant to the winner. If you have the room, you can do some Yoga every week with employees who arrive early enough. There’s no rule saying your office can’t be comfortable and full of energy at the same time.
Team Outings that Don’t Feel Like Work
You’ve had your night in at your own home, your day out in nature, and even a day in at the office. What about a night out on the town! We talked about beach days and ski trips. How about keeping it local? There are so many activities on offer right in your own backyard.
We already mentioned corn mazes and haunted houses, but escape rooms are a year-round puzzle your team can solve. You’ll be laughing your heads off during a desperate hour solving a murder, curing an outbreak, or preventing a missile launch! Escape rooms are a tight 60 minutes, but you can spend the next several hours continuing the fun over dinner or drinks. Indoor skydiving is also becoming a popular pastime. Forget the liability of real extreme sports! Go for the peace of mind and premium rush of an indoor activity. Rock wall climbing is a safer alternative to the real thing. And laser tag will give your employees less bruises than paintball. Although, there’s something very satisfying about hitting your boss in the rear with a high speed glob of paint.
Establishments like Dave & Busters keep opening up, offering the casual gaming of a pool hall with the greater variety of an arcade. You can stick to the classic pinball machines or save the world with your coworker over a tense game of Aliens. Some of these locations allow players to pool your tickets. That’s an opportunity to sneak in some team building as your whole office races to win a six-foot, neon stuffed duck. Man, your employees are weird!
Back at the Ranch
With shows like The Office and movies like Office Space and Horrible Bosses, we like to joke that work is the pits. Certainly for some it’s just a paycheck while others are very passionate. There’s no reason you can’t find common ground by shaking things up. Keep your employees feeling secure in their career but on their toes at the ping pong table. Your serve. How will you unwind with your team?