Merchant Advance Blog

Blog Article: The Key to a Productive Team? Have a Little Fun!

This is an idea I think all businesses can agree on, the importance of mixing business with pleasure. Summertime productivity does not have to be challenge when you feel as though you are working with friends rather than just coworkers, get to see the social side of the boss, and being able to look forward to some fun events! This article from the Globe & Mail does a good job at outing the importance company events as well as has some cost saving tips for businesses on a budget.

BBQS AND BOAT CRUISES: HOW SOME SMALL BUSINESSES DO SUMMER

Every other Friday throughout the summer, employees at Vital Insights Inc. get together for a lunchtime barbecue on the concrete space just outside the company’s ground floor offices in Mississauga, Ont.

Vital Insights, which sells customer experience management software to the automotive industry, picks up the tab for everyone’s barbecue lunch.
The company’s chief executive officer, Jason Tryfon, dressed in an apron and sunglasses, mans the grill himself.  “It’s something we all look forward to,” says Julie Nieradka, human resources representative at Vital Insights.  “We pull out our camping chairs and tables, roll out our barbecue which we store in our foyer, and then we all sit down for an hour and just enjoy the sun and each other’s company.”

The barbecues aren’t the only events on Vital Insights’ social calendar this summer. The company is planning a “survivor camp” one day in August and, in between, expects to have cycling events and maybe even a night out on the town.  It’s not exactly business as usual, Ms. Nieradka acknowledges. But when you’re in a country where celebrating summer is a well-entrenched tradition, sometimes you just have to mix business with pleasure, she says.

And it’s good for business. More than seven out of 10 marketing and advertising executives believe that co-workers who socialize outside the office have more productive working relationships, according to a recent survey of 250 such executives by The Creative Group.  Anecdotal evidence suggests companies tend to organize more employee get-togethers between June and September than they do at any time during the rest of the year.

Peter Jeewan, president and chief executive officer of Lannick Group of Cos., a Toronto-based recruitment and staffing firm, has a simple explanation for this flurry of warm-weather socials at work: Companies want to stay productive in the summer months, and one of the ways to do that is to keep employees happy.

“It may sound like a cliché, but a happy team is a productive team,” says Mr. Jeewan, whose own company, which has about 75 employees in Toronto and Ottawa, organizes a number of small department-level events throughout the summer and then closes the season with a boat cruise that brings together employees from both offices.

“In the summer, people can get distracted thinking about how much more fun they could have if they were outside instead of being stuck at work. Companies can either fight against this natural inclination, or they can embrace it and say,‘you know what, it’s a short season, so let’s all take a bit of time out of work to have some fun together,’” he adds.
Organizing summer socials can sometimes be challenging for small- and mid-sized businesses, especially in today’s economy, says Heather Hughes, president and senior consultant at HH and Your Company, a management consulting firm in Victoria, B.C.
Many small and mid-sized businesses still recovering from the recession are operating on tighter budgets and see social events as frivolous expenses they simply can’t afford, Ms. Hughes says.

It also takes time to put together a social event, and many firms are already understaffed and overworked, she adds.
Nevertheless, it’s tough for a company of any size to justify being all work and no play during the summer months, Ms. Hughes says.
“Your people work so hard all year, so when you don’t do anything for them during the summer months, you come across as being stingy and unappreciative,” she says.
“For businesses that are still developing, they’re also missing out on a wonderful opportunity to shape their corporate culture and convey their vision for their company.”

Warm temperatures and the season’s more casual atmosphere make it easier to plan corporate affairs, even for smaller companies with tight budgets, says Carolina Lee, an event co-ordinator at Bright Ideas Event Coordinators Ltd. in Vancouver.
“One of the biggest expenses you’ll have when you’re hosting a social event is the venue,” she says. “So choose your venue wisely. Find a low-cost option, or even somewhere that’s free.”
Picnics are especially popular with smaller companies, she says, because park fees are cheap and picnic foods are relatively inexpensive.
Some budget-conscious companies also choose to host their event at a private home, often belonging to the boss.
Some entrepreneurs feel too busy running their companies to organize social events but can’t or won’t pay for the services of a party planner like Ms. Lee. In that case, the next best thing to do is put together a social committee made up of managers and employees, she suggests.
“Give them a budget and let them get creative with it,” she says. “It’s a great way to strengthen your team and it also allows the people on the committee to develop new skills.”
For companies that want to organize an event after business hours, Ms. Lee suggests scheduling it for a Thursday evening. It’s a day that people may not have as many family obligations and, in summer, may kick off an early weekend start since many employees take Fridays off or businesses close early.

Mr. Jeewan says it’s important for companies to also be generous with time off for employees to attend their summer events. Even when an event is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. on a weeknight – usually Thursday at his company – many Lannick employees leave early to get ready for the evening ahead, and that’s okay with him.
Most events, however, start in the early afternoon. “We feel that if we’re going to have a company event, it make sense to have most of it during company time,” he says.
In fact, Mr. Jeewan does have a caveat when it comes to organizing company socials.
“Don’t dress it up as a social event and then try to use it as a business event,” he says.
“It’s very important and appropriate for senior leaders to address their employees and welcome them to the event, but this is not the time to give a speech about your business strategy or to rally the troops about boosting their sales efforts this summer.”
Ms. Nieradka agrees.

“The point of doing something social in the summer is to show everybody we care and that we appreciate them,” she says.

“The fact that we get a definite increase in camaraderie, which in turn increases communications and efficiency on projects – well, that’s just a nice plus.”

SOCIAL PLANNING
Here are expert tips for how small businesses can best plan outings for staff:

Location matters
To save on high venue rental fees, consider low- or no-cost options such as a park, the boss’s house, or even the patio outside your office.
Form a committee
In lieu of a party planner, create a social committee made up of managers and employees.
Put a lid on pot luck
It burdens employees and often results in a gastronomically dissonant party menu.
Put the business on hold
Close down the office while you party so no one needs to stay behind to man the phones. Or schedule your event for after office hours.
Don’t talk shop
It’s a social event, so avoid talking about work. In fact, forbid any talk of business at all.
Forget TGIF
Thursday is the magic day, often kickstarting an early weekend beginning for employees who take Fridays off or at businesses that close earlier in the summer.

Marjo Johne – Globe and Mail – Friday, Jul. 08, 2011

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