Putting the #fun into #work

Putting the fun into work (Martin Barraud/ Getty Images)Getting back to work after a long vacation or after that relaxing weekend can be quite a task. Mondays are daunting, while mid-week blues are enough to make you want to crawl under the covers and not go to work. But what happens when going to work becomes something to look forward to? Of late, many employers are getting quirkier and more innovative with their team bonding activities , engaging their employees in a fun and interactive atmosphere and making offices an actual fun place to work. From themed potlucks and TGIFs to traditional games, it looks like corporate offices today are breaking out of the strictly professional tag, and are focusing more on the person who matters the most — the employee.

Shrinika Thanikachalam, who works in a media agency in the city, says that their agency had recently organised a corporate pot luck contest among the employees. “It was a really huge deal. We were asked to draw lots and we were split into three teams. Each team had to come up with a team name, a logo and a menu in a stipulated period of time. It was fun because everyone, men included, had to cook. We even formed a WhatsApp group to plan the entire thing.”

The actual potluck happened over a three-day period, and our team, Bite and Chew, dialled things up with a live barbecue and mocktail counter in office. We had someone from another agency be the judge and we were asked to plan things out carefully, ensuring that food did not go to waste. While our team did not follow a particular theme, one of the other teams chose Kerala cuisine as their theme, and served dishes pertaining to that cuisine alone. We plan to make this a regular activity going forward.” Tarun Mishra, who works with an IT firm in the city adds, “Potlucks are the easiest way to bond, as food is the binding factor among most people.

They also add a personal touch as people bring home-cooked meals. It involves a bit of self-pride, too, when people like your dishes. At our firm, we have potlucks on a regular basis, where people bring different kinds of dishes – it is like India on a platter. I remember once a girl had brought beetroot halwa and the dish was so tasty, it became a conversation starter for us. I had never spoken to this girl before. It does a lot in bringing out the best in people.” There are other corporates which indulge in team bonding activities, which include team outings. Nomitha Nandakumar, who works at an MNC says, “We have regular team outings, not just within departments, but interdepartmental ones as well. These outings are usually fun, and packed with activities which include games you can play in groups such as treasure hunt and charades. At office, we have this break group and interchange policy, where employees are encouraged to come out of the comfort zone of their group and interact with new members of the team and work together. This ensures that there is no groupism of any sort. Then of course, there are the usual sports teams that each department has, and inter-department sports tournaments, too.”

Festivals are also a time when team bonding activities are at their peak. What is fascinating to note is that this is also the time when employees themselves take the initiative to do something out-of-the-box and quirky, keeping up with the general good spirit and cheer of the season. From Secret Santas and Best Christmas Tree contests during Christmas, to dressing up in ethnic wear for Pongal, there are many activities that take place. Poornima Ranjit, who works with a multiplex chain in the city says, “We are over 200 employees, and during festival times, we have activities where we have almost everyone participating in various games that are organised, depending on what festival it is. For instance, for Pongal, we had traditional games like lemon and spoon race.

Apart from that, we also have activities in smaller groups like there was this game where we merged photos of two people in office and we had to identify who those people were. There was another game where we played only a video without the voice of a popular punch dialogue in a movie and the teams will have to enact and repeat the dialogue. Games like this is a great way to get to know people from other teams as well as take a break from the usual pressure you deal with at work.” At Deepa and Arvind Athreya’s event management company, there is no concept of employees — they are all family. “We have a number of activities in place which take place on a regular basis — including TGIF, where we have book reading sessions and beer party on Fridays, flexi timings for ladies, movie nights once a month, fitness challenges for everyone (where we encourage people to walk 2 lakh steps every day).

We also babysit the children of our women employees from time to time, so they don’t have to worry if they aren’t able to find someone to look after their kids at any time,” says Deepa, adding, “The concept is simple really. There is an environment of ownership and freedom here. We have witnessed people in our team walking that extra mile when in need. We build teams we love.” Going that extra mile to make employees, in fact, can indeed have tangible results. At Shrinika’s firm, the employees got together to make an actual difference in their workspace. “We wanted to make the office a little more environment-friendly, so the employees got together and drafted a plan to convert our office balcony into a little green space. Once we got the approvals, we went all out and made a beautiful garden in the balcony, which we continue to nurture. We also converted our pantry into a sports-themed cafe. We painted the entire thing ourselves, and hung up posters of sportspersons…we went all out,” shares Shrinika.