If the time that you and your team spends together begins and ends at the office door, you’re doing something wrong.
You’re missing out on a huge opportunity to create a happier and more productive workplace.
You don’t all have to be best friends and hang out on weekends, but you should be making a concerted effort to organize events that allow people to socialize outside of the office. These off-the-clock gatherings can take many different forms – the important thing is they’re happening and they’re happening consistently.
Hip, young companies like Seat Geek, an online ticket aggregator, even has a social chairperson who’s charged with organizing regular social events.
Read on to learn more about why happy hour is so important and how to make the most of it.
- Strengthen Bonds
It’s pretty tough to have a close-knit, cohesive team if people don’t really know one another. You’ll find that the better people know each other outside of the office, the more loyal and supportive they’ll be to each other inside the office. When you know that your colleague has a 4-year-old named Eliza who has been struggling with asthma, you’ll be much more understanding when he seems a bit distracted during meetings.
- Happier Workers are Better Workers
Research has shown that the happier people are with their professional and personal lives, the more productive they are at work. So, not only is happy hour fun, but it’s good for your bottom line. For example, according to the American Psychological Association, unhappy employees can result in losses that amount to over $28,000 a year because of sick days. The money lost for the happiest employees? Only $840.
You probably don’t need scientific studies to believe that though. Just think about your past jobs and ask yourself, “Where did I do my best work? The job that I hated or the one I loved?” Employees will be much happier if they feel like the company values collegial socializing and a healthy work-life balance.
- A Light at the End of the Week
5 days can sometimes feel much, much longer, especially after a particularly trying week. Even if it’s just the promise of a couple pints and laughs with your colleagues, we all need something fun to look forward to when quitting time hits on Friday. If you’re the boss, you can also get several brownie points by starting the weekend at 4:30 – you’d be surprised what a difference 30 minutes make on a Friday afternoon.
- Drink to Your Health
Get ready for the shock of a lifetime…are you ready? Happy hour is good for your physical health. A 2009 Japanese study showed that simultaneous moderate alcohol consumption and socializing can help reduce chances of stroke and heart disease. Basically, this means that a couple rounds with people that you like spending time with will extend your life – if that’s not a good argument for a weekly happy hour tradition, I don’t know what is.
While no one wants to hear the word “rules” in the same sentence as “fun,” you should be aware of a few guidelines that will help ensure that your happy hour events are a success.
1. Down the Block
More than likely, your team doesn’t all live in the same area – some are near the office and some are far afield in all different directions. The best location for an after-work event is as close to the office as possible. This way, it’s equally convenient for everyone to attend.
If you choose a place in a totally different area, you risk losing lots of people for whom the travel is simply too inconvenient. Remember, a lot of us just can’t wait to get home on Friday evenings. A couple drinks at the pub down the block is a cinch, but driving 15 minutes in the opposite direction as your home might feel like too much after a long week.
2. Invited, not Required
The quickest way to make a fun event a drag is to require people to come. Make sure everyone knows that they have a standing invitation any time they’d like to come, but that, in no way, is attendance mandatory. Forcing someone to have a good time kind of cancels out the good time.
3. Don’t Talk Shop
One danger of happy hour is that it just ends up being an after-hours business meeting. This is especially true if there haven’t been a lot of social events in the past. If people don’t really know each other, work is the default conversation topic. Lead by example by bringing up other subjects. It can even be as simple as, “So, who’s excited for the new Game of Thrones season?”
Before long, people will be sharing more personal information with one another, which is the whole point. If you find that people are too stiff and professional at first, take a note from Yelp’s book. They created an app just for staffers to rate various beers at their happy hour – though you don’t have to create an app, you can have an activity that will encourage interaction and chatting about anything other than work.
4. Change it Up
It’s great to have a weekly Friday tradition of Happy Hour at the corner pub, but think about occasionally rotating in other events. Ask around and see what people would like to do. Some fun options could be: bowling, a potluck dinner, a barbecue in warm weather or a sports event.
Companies like HowAboutWe, an online dating site, host active, monthly social events like poker tournaments and paintball. Since setting people up for fun dates is the mission of their company, the company truly embraces the spirit of getting out and having fun together.
Instituting a regularly-scheduled happy hour with your colleagues should be a priority, not an afterthought. Just as you make time for department meetings and employee assessments, be sure to make time for valuable socializing. Stronger personal relationships and infusing company culture with some fun will make a huge difference to the health and happiness of your employees and your business.
After all, the company that socializes together, stays together.
Rod Miller is the Head of New Program Development of Corporate Award Source, an online supplier of corporate awards for companies and associations of all sizes. They design and manufacture emblem jewelry, service awards, rings, plaques, gifts and custom awards. With over 35 years of experience, Corporate Award Source offers customers personalized service and fast shipping options. For more information, visit Corporate Awards or find them on Google+.