The relationships we have at work are not simple. They are an odd combination of professional courtesy, the fact that you are obligated to spend time with these people eight hours per day whether you want to or not, and general human drama. And since you’re spending so much time with these people almost every day for a number of years, it’s in everybody’s best interest if you develop a good relationship. The company will make more money due to less drama and higher productivity, the manager will have an easier time creating teams, and the actual employees will enjoy their work more if they are with friends.
And not only that, we, as human beings, crave contact. Work can be a lonely place, a place where one would feel isolated. Even if they have an incredibly full life outside of work, spending 40 hours per week, every week, for eyes, lonely and isolated is not healthy. Feeling like your something larger than yourself, having the sense of being part of a group, all of this leads to greater happiness, reduced stress, and higher productivity.
Understand that a good and positive work environment can help a person develop, and grow. This can leads to the employee improving their skills, becoming more relaxed and in turn more creative. A person that feels safe in a work environment will be more likely to take smart, calculated risks. This can then fuel his success, and the success of your company, even more. And one of the best ways you can do this is by creating and nurturing office rituals.
Office rituals – the basics
An office ritual can be unique to that one office, or even sector, or it can be a corporate-wide phenomenon. Now, a company ritual is a combination of daily habits and occasional ceremonies that together create a corporate culture. For example, habits happen on an individual employee level, and are often weekly, if not daily, events. A small corporate ritual might simply be having all your employees sit down in the lunchroom every day at the same time, and eat together. Maybe they have a cup of coffee together as well at the same time.
They can also happen on a larger scale, practised once per week or month. For example, a business meeting is a common and ubiquitous corporate ritual. This gives people an opportunity to meet up, analyse what has happened in the company, see where they can improve, and how they can do so. Their main purpose is to help people bond and connect, as well as strengthening the feeling of company culture. This all, in turn, leads to an increase in productivity, more creative work, and a healthier professional atmosphere in the office.
However, the general importance and benefits of these rituals are more direct. Below you can find more concrete and properly defined examples of just why these rituals are so important.
Improvement of skills
One of the greater, more concrete benefits of rituals, is the passive improvement of sills and the sharing of knowledge. Namely, you want to have the constant improvement of the skills of your employees as part of your company culture. Continual advancement is necessary for any ambitious, motivated employee. Office rituals represent an excellent opportunity to implement exactly these things.
So, to give you an example, you can have your team sit down after every larger project and talk about how things went. The actual ritual can be completely formal – i.e. in an office or conference room, or it can be at a local bar, over beers. The point here is that it’s a regular occurrence that’s very useful to the people involved and to the company. You can sit down and talk about what you have learned. What the most difficult parts of the project were, and what went smoothly.
Another ritual you can try out, that leads to the improvement of skills, is getting them through training programs. Having a required program that every employee has to go through after his or her first six months of employment, for example, can serve as a kind of rite of passage.
Celebration of achievements and milestones
Rituals that allow for the celebration of achievements and milestones are absolutely perfect for morale building and motivation. Celebrating the achievements of the team, individual employees, or the entire department is a tried and true office ritual that gives extra results. Now, the rewards themselves are always good – a pay raise, taking a couple of days off, a nice bonus. However, sometimes even taking people out to dinner, or ordering a pizza, can be enough. The point here is that you recognize the achievement, that you noticed they did well. The fanfare surrounding a large, celebratory cake, for example, is more important than the actual cake.
Besides showing your employees that you care and that you appreciate hard work, there is an added benefit to this kind of behaviour and ritual. Namely, you give them another chance to bond and to share their experiences.
Perhaps you can get a shared gift for the entire company. As a token of your gratitude for a fantastically well-done project, you can get some of the extra money you made and invest it into the office itself. Maybe getting a foosball table in the break room, a new espresso machine? Maybe just stay stocked up with higher quality snacks, espresso pods, drinks, and appliances.
Sometimes, due to budget or time constraint, you may not be able to set up a proper celebration. That is perfectly fine, but you must still acknowledge their hard work. At least sending out an email, or better yet, congratulating people in person, should be on your list.
They strengthen company culture
A company’s culture is its personality, it’s how it approaches the market, and how its brand is set up. Company culture also influences how people behave, it centres on what kind of behaviour is expected from your employees. It can be rather stiff or formal, as a serious law firm, or it can be relaxed and casual, like most tech start-ups. A company’s culture is built around its vision, the mission you want to accomplish, and the general core values this company represents.
Now, company rituals can cement this notion, they can really hammer home the right ideals and the “personality” you want to promote. Weekly meetings in formal attire are great for a company that values professionalism above all else. On the other hand, casual Fridays, trips, gaming or pizza parties at the office after work are great if you care more about a creating chill atmosphere.
Helps with bonding
Most rituals centre on bonding between employees. They focus on building and maintaining relationships, on creating and strengthening organic, natural teams. If you want to maximize employee retention and engagement, we advise you make it easy for everyone to become friends. Quick caveat thought – never force this kind of things, let it happen naturally. Forced corporate activities, team building, and fake motivational speakers are incredibly condescending.
So, we suggest some organic team building exercise and elements. For example, weekly happy hour at a local bar is great. People are out, maybe having a drink, they’re relaxing, sharing stories. This is a great opportunity for people to open up, maybe have a kind of conversation with co-workers they wouldn’t otherwise have in a work environment. You can expect a fun Friday night to end up with a much warmer and more relaxed atmosphere on Monday.
You can have this happy hour option take place at the office as well. Or, maybe you can go with some standard (but still fun) team building exercise. Things like escape rooms are always popular, as are trivia or game nights. Maybe something a little more adventurous, like paintball or some kind of adventure-sports retreat. Going into a more professional direction is also fine. Organising a fun outing during a business trip will be sorely appreciated, and just going to a seminar for a couple of days together can mean a lot.
Coaching and autonomy
Another workplaces ritual can lead to effective coaching of junior employees, and the development of their autonomy and self-reliance. Namely, you can make another type of a rite of passage by having older employees coach and teach younger ones. They can help them advance their careers, improve their skills, and in general make them better at their jobs. This also improves the work of senior employees. Finally, it strengthens the bond between these two people.
Another aspect, after coaching, is about letting people gain some autonomy, and learn how to manage themselves. If your company leaves room, and supports, decentralisation of command, then you want your employees to be as autonomous as possible. Basically, direct your employees, give those clear guidelines and assistance during the first couple of months (or years). Then, after you believe they are ready, let them manage themselves. Give them clear goals to focus on, and let them handle the rest.
Personal moments and appreciation
Celebration of personal milestones and moments can and should be a ritual. Keeping track of people’s birthdays, anniversaries, when they became parents or grandparents, these are all things that will show that you appreciate your employees that you care about them. Celebrating seniority, maybe every five or ten years of working for the company should be signified in some way. Celebrating work anniversaries are great ways to show yours appreciate your people as well.
Remember, as we’ve said before, it doesn’t have to be that expensive. Just showing you care, that you understand, can be enough.
And there you have it folks, a couple of reasons why office rituals are important. When properly implemented, they help you show how much you appreciate your employees. They also help with coaching and with autonomy. Company rituals allow you to cement your company’s culture, they allow you to improve people’s skills. Finally, and above all, properly implemented company rituals are all about employee bonding, strengthening the relationships at the office as much as possible. With proper bonding and a positive atmosphere, you can expect higher productivity, greater morale and a generally more pleasant work environment.