Free beer, foosball tables, fully stocked fridges, fireman poles and fairy bread. The big-wigs in company culture have really lifted the bar for us all, haven’t they? Between Google, Facebook and Red Bull, today’s most envied offices look more like a playground for adults than a place of business.
Over the last few years we’ve seen a huge shift from the grey, fluorescently-lit cube farm to workplaces of fun, frivolity and freedom. Creating a winning company culture has become a staple of entrepreneurship. Progressive companies are beginning to realise that employees won’t just settle for a paycheck; they want to join an inspiring environment where they feel uplifted, energised and valued.
One of my ultimate goals here at Smack Bang is to create a workplace that is super comfortable, and a family that is more enticing than a stay-at-home day. Whilst we can’t all have a two-story jumping castle in the boardroom (..yet), I believe that any company, no matter the size or budget, can provide their staff with the right ingredients for a culture and community of fun, and therefore increased morale, productivity and employee engagement.
Just like any relationship worth pursuing, the employer-employee relationship is a two-way street that requires effort on both ends. Retaining the top dogs, those incredible individuals who are virtually exploding with potential and creativity, requires a dedication to treating them well and fostering their productivity, engagement and growth. Making your people feel at home and ready to mop the floor with their talent involves honing in on your unique qualities and working from there. In the beverage business? Champagne showers every Friday! Lucky enough to have a large, open work space? Convert it into a dancefloor or yoga studio when the time calls for it. Keeping your people happy will pay huge dividends, promise. So say sayonara to the humdrum office cubicle set up complete with designated water cooler stations, and brush up on these quick and easy tips:
SCREW THE SYSTEM Instead of setting strict schedules, tight timetables and micromanaging down to the minute, I prefer to give my employees more flexibility to do their work as they see fit. I understand that you can’t switch creativity on and off, and at times you feel like you’d be much better sawing your left arm off than producing a piece of creative work. For this reason, I like to be flexible with my team and if they need to work from home, take their laptop to a cafe or suspend themselves from the ceiling, they surely can. There’s only one condition – the final deadline has to be met, no matter what.
RAISE THE STAKES There’s nothing like a bit of friendly competition to re-energise the mind and put some fire in the belly. I love setting prize-based challenges amongst the team, for example. Whether it’s a battle of the brains or a frantic race to the finish line, raising the stakes will get your team’s blood pumping and inspire them to work more productively.
SHAKE AND BREAK Wiping crumbs from your keyboard is a sign of sorrow. The amount of times I’ve eaten my lunch whilst hovering over a project deadline is embarrassing. As a society, we’ve somehow developed a culture that encourages people to forgo lunch breaks and miserably scoff down tepid minestrone and cruskits at their desk – what a sorry sight! As an employer, it is absolutely crucial that you encourage your staff to get up, get moving and take a proper break. I can almost feel the muscle atrophy setting in to my limbs if I don’t give myself a breather during the day, and if I ignore the symptoms I run the risk of losing one leg entirely to vicious pins and needles. Setting up a dedicated break room or special space to chill out and eat mindfully works wonders for happy, energised and productive employees. Merely changing the scenery can jump start a midday inspiration slump.
“Fitness activities can be a fun way to break up the day and get the collective blood pumping. The Smack Bang gang have dabbled with the odd squat challenge and love a good afternoon yoga session. Think about organising a “Biggest Loser” style challenge to the schedule!”
CELEBRATE IN STYLE Gold stars just don’t cut it anymore. If your team hits a major milestone or kicks an epic goal, make sure you take the time to celebrate it. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or take a lot of time, but celebrating achievements will make a big impact. It allows people to reap the rewards of their hard work, spend time together and feel good about the progress you’ve all made. Perks of a Smack Bang win will often include Friday arvos off, pancake breakfasts and long, food-coma inducing lunches.
SPRUCE YOUR SPACE Beige linoleum floors, stark paint jobs and minimal natural lighting have all the makings of ‘worst workspace imaginable’. Your workplace will demand a great deal of your time, and a substantial portion of your waking hours, so make it a space where you want to actually be. Create a visually stimulating environment, where the walls appeal rather than repel, the decor inspires rather than irritates and the vibe is awe-inspiring rather than anxiety-inducing. It is key to acknowledge the relation between a positive work environment and staff morale, so don’t even think for one second that a sea of same same and miserable monochrome will get the best out of your team. Out of ideas? Plants, colourful artwork, windows, cushions – start there!
FORM A FRAT HOUSE Fraternity houses are well known for fun, frivolity and freedom (as well as a few unmentionables) – the three key ingredients to a fun company culture. Think about designating an area in your workplace where these antics can take place. Whether it’s a small nook, or a rooftop playground, providing an area for your employees to take a break from their desks and give their minds a reboot is key to increasing productivity and decreasing stress levels.
PARTY PEOPLE Whether it’s a cupcake eating competition for someone’s birthday or an saucy Santa photoshoot for Christmas, make sure you take some time to celebrate special occasions. At Smack Bang, we make a habit of baking for birthdays and getting together for an afternoon drink or ten. I often give my gang an afternoon off to just say thank you. Making employees feel appreciated goes a long way towards creating a company culture of fun.
ZEN FOR TEN If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in time at the helm of SBD, it’s that stress is contagious. It spreads like wildfire, and unless you nip it in the bud, it can do some real damage to a day. I’m a firm believer in creating zen-vibes on the regular. Think about squeezing in a weekly yoga or meditation class, booking your team in for a celebratory massage or just taking ten minutes for everyone to sit in the sun and let the stress melt away.
HAPPY HOUR There’s no cure like a hard-earned coldie. We enjoy highly revered office happy hours, where my team finish out their workday with a cold beer or cider in hand. Off-site happy hour gatherings are even better, giving the gang a chance to blow off some steam and create memories outside of the office. Just remind the crew of the pitfalls of social media on some occasions..
BAN THE MIDNIGHT OIL It is your responsibility to make sure that your staff aren’t clocking up their overtime. When you start to notice team members resembling characters out of a zombie film, or an out-of-character meltdown over the saga of the missing herbal tea leaves, it’s possibly a sign that your people are tired. This is where you need to intervene to appropriately manage the wellbeing of your team, which will benefit them and you in the long run. Even when your to-do list is longer than Santa’s ‘naughty’ compendium, keep reminding yourself of the damage that can arise as a result of burning the midnight oil beyond what is reasonable or healthy. Imitate that epic boss that you’ve always strived to be and move quickly to respect your team and find better solutions.