By: Jessica Thiefels
Small Business Freelancer, Content Marketing and Strategy Consultant
In today’s competitive market for talent, office culture is everything. With employees spending most of their time (some upwards of 50 hours a week) in the office, it’s should come as no surprise that HR leaders consider developing and nurturing corporate culture and employee engagement to be their number one challenge.
Luckily, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to improve company culture. Initiatives that promote health, work-life balance, kindness and gratitude already exist and can go a long way in bolstering a positive office culture while also increasing engagement.
If you’re unsure where to start, here are a few initiatives to consider:
Companies have been holding organization-wide health challenges and the like for some time now, but the kinds of health initiatives employees desire are different than they once were, where end results were all that was emphasized. People don’t want to step on a giant scale and see how much weight they lost (or didn’t lose!). Instead, they want measurable processes that lead to overall well-being; to track progress with technology, get stronger, healthier, and feel great. With that in mind, here are a few modern health initiatives to try:
Supply organic lunches: According to a 3-month Communispace study. millennials care deeply about what they eat: “More than a quarter say organic, natural and non-toxic products are part of maintaining their health and may see them as alternatives to traditional medicine, signaling an opportunity for brands well beyond the traditional health care sectors,” If your organization can’t pay for lunch every day, choose a couple days to provide an organic lunch for employees or consider partnering with a catering company or bringing in a chef.
Strength challenge: You are probably familiar with popular health hashtags such as: #Healthyisthenewskinny and #progressnotperfection. With the idea of encouraging progress towards health goals in mind, why not hold a fitness challenge and then give employees a period of time to prepare for a re-test, challenging them to improve their performance and beat their old numbers. The friendly competition will encourage camaraderie and morale among employees while emphasizing greater personal health through competition.
Sleep goals: According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the more sleep an employee gets, the less likely they are to call in sick: “Results show that the risk of an extended absence from work due to sickness rose sharply among those who reported sleeping less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours per night,”
With fitness trackers and other wearables, people can now track how long and how well they’re sleeping every night. Set a sleep goal for employees and have them track their sleep over a period of time to earn rewards like gift cards, merchandise or PTO. Employees will feel better and they’ll love telling people they have “sleep goals” for work.
A Kindness Initiative
We could all benefit from more kindness in the world these days; not only at work but throughout our daily lives. In a recent poll, 76 percent of respondents said the world is a less kind place than it was 10 to 20 years ago. One way to bring more kindness, respect, and empathy into the workplace is with a kindness initiative.
It should include the following components:
Create a set of kindness “pillars” that everyone follows. Examples include: When giving constructive criticism or performance feedback, always give “compliment sandwiches” (compliment, criticism, compliment), assign work based on people’s strengths to set everyone up for success, exhibit small acts of kindness like holding the door open for coworkers, etc.
Institute regular recognition of employees. For this to stick, it has to work top down. Managers and team leaders can plan a monthly meeting where one or a group of employee(s) is called out for their excellent work. To ensure a tangible element for this type of recognition, employers can also create a wall of fame to post photos of these high performing employees. For larger organizations, an employee recognition platform is a great way to create and embed a culture of recognition.
Encourage employees to “give props” to their peers. If you use a tool like Slack to communicate within your office, this is easy to facilitate. Set up a channel where employees can recognize one another with a timely “thanks” or “nice job” regarding recent business successes. Using Slack, colleagues can not only tag the recipient of the “props”, but the entire channel, so everyone sees what that person did. Some recognition software providers, like Achievers, even allow the integration of popular tools like Slack within their recognition platform to further encourage “recognition in the flow of work”.
Employees will love getting the extra recognition, and more kindness may help reduce drama and sticky office politics.
A Volunteer Initiative
Giving back is not only good for the soul of your organization, it’s also good for attracting and retaining millennials: But sadly, only 57 percent of millennials believe that business leaders are committed to improving society. A volunteer initiative is relatively easy to set up and gives you a chance to boost your employer brand while also increasing loyalty and engagement among millennials.
Here are a few suggestions for setting up a volunteer initiative:
- Hold a bi-annual volunteer event, where employees volunteer their time rather than go into the office for the day. Don’t do it on a Saturday—not only will you likely cripple turnout, but employees will likely not appreciate having an initiative such as this scheduled during their free time.
- Reward employees who volunteer on their own time with “free” half-days.
- Give every employee one workday a year, month or quarter to take part in a volunteer activity of their choosing.
In addition to the inherent value of the good deed itself, participating employees will feel good about themselves and gain more respect for your business, making volunteer initiatives especially valuable.
A Work/Life Balance Initiative
In the aforementioned Communispace study, 49 percent of millennials reported work-life balance as an important part of their health and wellness, followed by relationships with friends and family (47 percent). Employees of all generations care greatly about achieving a proper Work/Life balance, making it an important part of any culture campaign.
Luckily, there are many ways you can help employees foster desired work-life balance:
- Half-day Fridays: Offer this once a month, or during a specific quarter. Many companies do this in the summer, when people tend to go on more weekend escapes.
- Flexible work hours: Instead of limiting office attendance to the standard 9-to-5, allow employees to work when and how they can personally be most productive, whether that means coming in and leaving early, or working through the night. As long as they are performing up to expectations and making themselves available for meetings and other requests from colleagues, allow them the flexibility to manage their own schedules.
- Work from home: If possible, allow employees to occasionally work from home, be it once a week or month.
- Unlimited time off: This is something many startups and even larger companies are starting to offer. Employees can take as much, or as little time off as their job permits, without worrying about PTO caps or tracking their remaining vacation days. Fostering trust among your employees does wonders for engagement and it also benefits employers as it has been suggested that employees may actually take less time off when they have unlimited PTO.
A Shadow Initiative
This initiative allows employees to shadow their peers for a period of time. Business departments often get siloed and have little understanding as to what each other is doing. Shadow initiatives give everyone a chance to understand the roles of their collegues and see how their two positions can work together to achieve even better results.
To keep it organized, allow one department to shadow each month. For example, in March, members of the marketing team will shadow whomever they want. Set your time period (4 hours, an afternoon), and ask each shadow pairing to come up with one way they can work together in the next month.
Employees will love spending time doing something new and the business will flourish as connections are made that take projects and ideas to the next level.
To learn more, download the white paper All For One and One For All: Uniting a Global Workforce With Company Culture.
About Jessica Thiefels
Jessica Thiefels has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and spent the last five years in marketing. She recently stepped down from a senior marketing position to focus on growing her own startup and consulting for small businesses. She’s been featured on Forbes and has written for sites such as Lifehack, Inman, Manta, StartupNation and more. When she’s not working, she’s enjoying sunny San Diego with her husband and friends or traveling somewhere new. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.