Office workers hold hands together on table

Four creative ways to strengthen your team during the holidays

With Halloween and the presidential election out of the way, we can now say the holidays are officially upon us. Regardless of race, ethnicity, or faith, it is difficult to escape Thanksgiving through New Year’s and everything in between. This is true at home as well in the workplace. So why not embrace the holiday season this year and implement some new (or strengthen some old) strategies for building strong team connections that will last throughout the year? Here are four ideas:

Recognize each other

While it’s important and effective for management/leadership to recognize their employees in various ways, why not put a new spin on it and have employees and team members recognize the skills, abilities, and accomplishments in one another? When I compliment my five-year-old, she beams from ear to ear. I cannot say us adults are that much different. We love compliments, especially those that are thoughtful and specific. They boost self-esteem and show that amidst all the negativity that surrounds us daily, we are capable of doing things worth recognizing and capable of recognizing them in each other. Place a board in the lunch room where people can post shout-outs to one another, set aside five minutes during meetings to recognize and thank one another, provide the team with gift cards in small amounts they can hand to someone to say ‘thank you’ or ‘keep up the good work.’ Creating a culture of recognition strengthens team relationships.

Setup a friendly competition

If you’ve played a board game with your (adult) friends, you know that there is still an inner child in each of us and that it’s fun (and therapeutic) to be silly and engage in friendly competition. Alex Delbelov, CEO of Virool, a video marketer purchased Fitbits for his employees last year and held a ‘healthy walking’ competition amongst his teams. He says, “Between Thanksgiving and the New Year, everyone will be competing for the most number of steps taken. The winner will receive a year-long gym membership to kick off a healthy and happy new year.” Even if your budget doesn’t allow for something like this, there are simple ideas to instill a spirit of fun competition such as what team can bring in the most food for the local food bank, a cookie or pie bake-off, an office or cubical decorating contest, even a funny White elephant gift exchange. Adding a little play time amidst the hard work can really make a positive difference.

Get out and do something

Really, doing anything, something, that breaks up the ordinary work week can have a huge impact on employee morale. My brother-in-law’s company makes sure to always take their teams to the latest action movie (Star Wars anyone?). Something about hanging out with the people you work with outside the work place, munching on some popcorn and laughing at a funny scene, can do wonders for morale…and all for about $10 a person. Don’t have the budget? Set aside an afternoon for ‘game time’ at the office (board games, video games or even soccer outside, weather permitting), volunteer somewhere together, just find some reason to get everyone out of the office (during the work day) and hang out. A seemingly small gesture can communicate your appreciation for your employees during this special time of year.

Give the gift of time

If you have the ability, give some free time off. This is the busiest time of year personally for many people and even a few hours to beat the crowds and do some holiday shopping is a huge bonus. One way is to offer ‘free hours’, which combines recognition and competition, by allowing employees to accrue time off based on a set of guidelines. A team could even go out holiday shopping together or start offering half-day Fridays where the afternoon is a free choice. The gift of time is always appreciated and definitely something teams can get behind.

There are countless other ideas to make this time of year a special one and build stronger team connections that will carry over to the new year. Set aside some time to think through some ideas and start a new tradition this year. After all, a strong and healthy organization is the gift that keeps on giving.