The Workplace Family: 6 Office Traditions That Bring Employees Together

Cornerstone Editors

Since employees thrive when their company has a strong culture and community, many companies are creating office traditions, whether they’re a weekly, monthly or holiday-centric occurrence. Thanksgiving pie contests and Fourth of July bashes are often celebrations that people participate in with friends and family, but since employees are increasingly blurring the lines between work and personal life, there’s good reason that companies want more than a group of employees. They want a workplace family.

"Traditions are important rites of culture, so you have to think about them carefully," Susan Strayer LaMotte, founder of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy, told Entrepreneur. "There’s this idea that we have to offer these perks, but you want to make sure your culture is in everything you do."

As part of a sensible culture by design and to create traditions that will last and bring employees together, the company must listen to how employees react to the events and celebrations and elicit their opinions about what kind of traditions they’d like to see. Recurring events are a great time for companies to reinforce their company values and mission and remind employees why the company is a great place to work.

Here are six ways that companies are getting innovative with office traditions:

1. Go tropical. Instead of hosting a picnic or kayaking trip as the company retreat, email delivery company SendGrid turns its annual retreats into a vacation to destinations such as Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, according to The Muse. Not only is the retreat memorable and relaxing, but it gives employees a chance to get to know one another and bond in a more casual setting.

2. Hack away. Many tech companies hold hackathons to encourage innovation and out-of-the-box thinking that employees don’t have time for during the normal workday, but making the hackathons a regular occurrence bakes them into company culture. Here at Cornerstone, just last month, we held a company-wide hackathon that was attended by over 100 participants and produced dozens of amazing innovations that might have otherwise remained bubbling under the surface. The hack works.

3. Relive high school days. Whether employees had a great time at their high school prom or want a chance to redo it, eco-friendly cleaning company Method throws a Prom Night party every summer. Employees flaunt their best dresses and suits and capture their fun moments in a photo booth.

4. Bring back recess. While employees often take individual breaks throughout the day, microfinance organization Kiva has a monthly "recess" celebration, complete with snacks and entertainment, for employees to interact informally with co-workers.

5. Eat cake on Fridays. It’s not everyday that H&M design employees in Stockholm eat cake — only Fridays, according to PopSugar. Employees rotate who brings the homemade cake that week and they always have a different flavor to try. Here at Cornerstone, we have a company baking club. I’m serious.

6. Play off of holiday classics. Instead of having a one-time Secret Santa exchange among employees, North of Nine Communications extends it to an entire week and includes both naughty and nice gifts. For example, office elves have been known to cover desks in festive wrapping paper or leave a gift when the employee is out to lunch, according to Entrepreneur.

Office traditions don’t need to be an elaborate holiday party or an event entirely planned by HR. In fact, often those that are most successful are driven by employees. Traditions are all about creating a workplace family that unites employees and makes them feel a part of a tight-knit community.

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