…and How to Have Fun at Work
Perhaps you’re a manager browsing for some good morale builders for your employees today, or some good team building activities for your company, or maybe you’re a small business owner looking for creative ideas for some workplace fun to kickstart the new year. Maybe that is what brought you to my blog post today, and if so, WELCOME (to my little corner of the web)! Please, make yourself at home. I’m excited to share my pink, bedazzled briefcase full of ideas with you, and hope you find several somethings that meet your expectations. I know you know, or you wouldn’t be here looking, that happy, healthy employees make for a happy, healthy company. And a happy, healthy company, in this economy, is a coveted thing indeed. My list of workplace fun ideas begins just a hop, skip, and a jump down from here. Go, check them out and enjoy!
Or, you might instead be a guy or gal on the bottom rungs of the corporate ladder, in a job where you feel used up, unappreciated, and insignificant. Been there, done that, believe me – I‘ve got the t-shirt, or I should say HAD the t-shirt. Thankfully I’ve long since burned it to smitherines! But, believe me it is fresh enough that I want to give you a big hug, speed some encouragement your direction, and then extend my hand to you and help raise you up out of that deep, dark pit!
I recently heard, and was so touched by a story. It was titled, The Bagger. It was about a grocery store employee who had Down’s Syndrome. He had recently attended a conference where everyone was encouraged to make a difference in their workplace by creating memories for the customers. The bagger didn’t think he had much to offer being the lowest paid, most insignificant person in the company. But that evening an idea popped into his head. He had the notion to create a thought for the day. He could get them out of a book or off the Internet, or even just make them up. He could sit down to his computer and type them up several to a page, print off several sheets, and cut them apart. So he did it, signed his name on the back, and the next day he put these strips in his pocket. As he was bagging groceries he tucked a little slip into one of each of his customer’s bags. The next day he had a new thought of the day. After a few weeks the store manager was making his rounds and noticed that one check-out line was so much longer than all the rest. He let these people know that there was no waiting down on lane two, but no one budged. Puzzled by this he finally asked one of the customers what was so special about that particular line? They told him about the bagger’s thought of the day. They liked it and had come especially to see what today’s thought was.
The store manager marveled at Johnny‘s ability to bring people joy. It wasn’t long before word spread through the store and other employees wanted to create memories for people. The floral department started pinning their broken flowers on elderly women and little girls. And people who never shopped at this store before started coming to shop here for the bagger’s thought of the day and the friendly service. People who only came once a week started coming in every day just to pick up a little something and get that thought of the day. Sales increased and this particular grocery store began outshining all the others in the area. And all because one insignificant person desired to make a difference.
I admit, I was not having a very good time in my workplace when the inspiration for this blog post hit. It’s why the Bagger’s story had such an impact on me. I was inspired by his sweet positivity to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. And I also thought that maybe if I started to try to make things better where I worked, perhaps my coworkers would one by one lay down their hatchets and work to lighten the mood too. I figured, it was worth a try.
I read a few books that I hoped would improve my mood:
1.) Get Out of That Pit, by Beth Moore. I got the Audio version of the book and listened to it during a vacation, and then on my way to and from work.
2.) How to Respond When You’ve Been Mistreated, by John Bevere is a must-read resource. Consult it first before doing something rash in retaliation for something you perceive as mistreatment. At the very least it will give you pause to re-examine. You may not choose to follow his advice, but at least you will have heard it. And…
3.) How to Get Along With Difficult People, by Florence Littauer. Great, great book with lots of humor, explaining the various personalities. It will give you insight into how other people tick. It will make you laugh at them and yourself a little, and it might even give you mercy for them. At least these books will empower you with tools you didn’t have before. And that’s more muscle than you have right now.
And this online resource:
Michele Moore, the author of The Happiness Habit has a list of happiness habits for the workplace, and some no-nonsense tips for how to deal with “evil” bosses and coworkers: Happiness & Devil, and Psychopathology Check-list
She has a page on how to spot them, treat them, avoid them, and generally deal that I found very helpful.
There is a lot of proven fact behind workplace fun and a happy atmosphere having a direct effect on the health, success, and productivity of many Fortune 500 companies today. Go ahead and Google it and see where the Schools of Fish are swimming (those are two bold hints, btw). See what turned Southwest Airlines around (if you’ve flown with them any time in the last several years you’ve probably heard a flight attendent or two who presented the pre-flight “In Case of Emergency” speech like a stand-up comedian), and Pike’s Fish Market (if you’ve been there you know the fish mongers make a big
production out of every fish order, tossing fish through the air, catching them, and all while chanting a loud, flamboyant rap between themselves). Crowds gather daily to watch the show, and the entertaining routine catapulted them from the brink of bankruptcy. It’s because they weren’t satisfied with the status quo and made a concerted effort to infuse their workplaces with fun!
Sooooo… I rolled up my sleeves and rather than spending my time, my sleepless nights, my depressing Sunday afternoons, stewing on the negatives I started collecting some positives. Maybe if I became a ray of sunshine in a dark place it would have a butterfly effect?
So, here are the ideas I began packing into my little pink bedazzled briefcase. Please drag them all out and spread them around on your floor. Try any of it on that looks fun to you and dance in it all like nobody is watching. Go! Go, my dear friend and make a difference in your surroundings. Go make someone smile. Go turn your coworkers lives around, and your workplace around, and your world around. Because you CAN! Go!!!!!
O F F I C E G A M E S
Now here’s the thing… You can choose to be a one-woman-act who takes on the responsibility of organizing and running each of the following games and activities with pure workhorse determination, or you can get an accomplice, or maybe even go to your boss and ask if you can form a committee to carry out these activities. If you go, go armed. Take him or her a copy of the book Fish by Stephen C. Lundin, Ph.D., Harry Paul and John Christensen.
Taste of Home magazine was my source of inspiration for this treasure hunt game, also like a Where’s Waldo. It’s a treasure hunt where two identicle copies of a picture are posted, one in the lounge, and the other in a random area of your workplace, taped to a corner of a window, or the side of a garbage can, or inside a cupboard door in the kitchen, for example.
I decorated a shoe box and put the first copy with a sign posted above it that said “Another picture identical to this has been hidden somewhere in the building. If you find it, jot your name on the back and place it in this box.” The pictures were things I cut out of a magazine or made out of construction paper (simple things, just like this smiley face). I checked the box daily, and sure enough in a day or two the picture would be in there. I would then place a candy bar in the person’s mailbox with a note that said, “Congratulations, fearless hunter, enjoy a chocolate break!” SNICKERS bars now have little “hangry” sayings on them, so you could also attach a note that says something like, “I hope this chases the “Loopys” away!” The next day I hung a new picture in the lounge above the box and its twin somewhere else in
the building. It was a fun game that I played all school year.
The fun for me was in not getting caught!!! I had to be reeeeeally sneaky to hide the pictures, and dispense the candy bars, and not let anyone catch me in the act. On occasion I overheard people talking and wondering who was doing this, but I didn’t want credit. I just wanted to make them all smile. I think I made the janitor smile the most. She found more of those pictures than anyone else. That’s okay; she had a dirty job and definitely deserved some sweet treats.
LOUNGE OR BREAK ROOM PASSTIMES
Doodle Cloth: One of our teachers did this for one of our luncheons and I thought it was a great idea. Cover the tables in butcher paper and set out buckets of crayons. Encourage employees to doodle on the paper, or play games of tic-tac-toe. When one paper got filled up, it got peeled off and a new cover got laid down. Especially clever art could be surgically extracted from the overall sheet, mounted in a frame, and posted on the Wall of Fame.
Table Games: Set out table games like table football, spinning tops, checkers, or dice games like LCR, Farkle, or Yatzee. Set out little stacks of trivia game cards from Trivial Pursuit, or Fact or Crap, or Smart Ass. Set out a set of conversation cards like Table Talk. Or invest in electronic games like the hand held electronic games of Twenty Questions, or Catch Phrase. Maybe someone has one at home they wouldn’t mind lending?
Puzzle: Set out a puzzle for people to work on while they take a break. Your group may like the puzzle idea so much that you could glue it to a board when you are finished and display it on a wall of the lounge, and then keep a puzzle going all the time.
Loungy lounge: Take up donations to make the lounge nice with comfy couches, magazines (encourage the staff to lend their magazines from home after they’ve looked at them), a boom box with CD’s and a radio, and a TV where people can catch up on news, weather, etc.
Salute our Soldiers Wall: Have all employees who have loved ones who are currently serving or have served in the military during any of the wars to bring a photo with the soldier’s name, branch of the military, and job they did while in service. Display these pictures on a memorial wall to honor them during Memorial and Veterans Day, and to remind us to pray for military, currently serving, for a safe return home.
THE 2:00 PM STRETCH: At 2PM every day hold a 15 minute break (just to get the blood flowing again when the afternoon sleepies hit). It can be the same thing every day (like line dance, or Hula Hoops, or jump rope) or a different thing every day.
Snack Break: Set up a Popcorn Bar where people can come get a bagfull and season it with various flavored salts or candies, and get themselves a coke (or bottle of water) out of the machine.
Yoga Break: Set up a video on a TV in the break room for a 15 minute physical and mental stretching exercize, and don’t forget the bottle of water and mat.
Play break: I found some fun little slingshot animals at Amazon.com that make a loud obnoxious squeal as they fly. Buy at least one of each animal, dump them out on a table and encourage everyone to grab one and start shooting at their coworkers in a frenzied free-for-all. Everyone will be laughing and it will truly sound like a zoo or barnyard. Tons of fun! Can’t find the animals…use soft round nerf or hacky sack balls (at least 20 to 30) and have a snowball fight. Or get out the hula hoops, skip-its, BBops, or pogo sticks. (See Active Play Toys).
Walking Break: grab a bottle of water, an ipod (if you want some music), and meet others in the lobby for a 15 minute walk around the building, down the street, or across the parking lot and back. The fresh air and sunshine is rejuvenating.
YouTube Break: Meet in someone’s office to watch a funny, cute, or uplifting YouTube video of the day. Or, if you have a favorite radio program (Dr. Laura, Blue Collar Comedy, old Paul Harvey reruns, etc.) give it a listen.
Chat Break: Go visiting to another person’s office. Bring them a beverage and just chat about anything but work. Make your office a good break place (candy jar, Nerf basketball hoop over the door, dart board on the wall, treadmill in the corner, etc.)
*Make your boss aware of the rule of 52/17 and ask to give it a one-month trial: (http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/09/science-tells-you-how-many-minutes-should-you-take-a-break-for-work-17/380369/)
CASUAL FRIDAY: Every Friday the staff could be allowed to wear jeans to work. Or, make it a….
CRAZY OUTFIT DAY: Taking Casual Friday to the outer limits…not just jeans, but themes! Here are 52 dress suggestions, one for every week of the year. Be creative. Be tasteful. Have fun.
I Love Lucy
Holiday theme – Halloween
Sequins, tassels, or fringe
T-shirt with a funny saying on it
Holiday theme – Thanksgiving
Cross Dresser: men have to wear something feminine and women have to wear something masculine. (There was a time when such behavior wasn’t “outting,” but rather just silliness! I hope we haven’t lost our sense of humor).
Holiday theme – Christmas
T-shirt, favorite rock band
Favorite Sports Team
Holiday theme – Valentines’s Day
Holiday theme – Saint Patrick’s
Something touristy, purchased on vacation
Holiday theme – Easter/April Fools
Something with holes in it
Corsage (or, taking that to a Texas level: Homecoming Mums)
Something from your prom or your wedding
Holiday theme – 4th of July
Lace or ruffles
Silk or satin
GUESS WHO? BOARD: Put up an employee bulletin board in the break room that features various monthly or quarterly themes. Have every employee bring a throwback photo of themselves when they were in Kindgergarten, Jr. High School, wedding photo, baby photo, high school senior photo, funny face photo, etc.
Make sure the photos are not labeled on the front, so the staff can guess who each person is. If you want, you can give each picture a number and make up ballots with blank lines next to the numbers and have employees submit signed guess sheets into a ballot box. Whoever guesses the most correct wins a prize.
You could do vacation photos and ask everyone to guess the correct location where the photo was taken. Vacation photos are fun because you can post a world map and put markers on all the places represented by the pictures, which also makes a great conversation starter.
BRAG BOARD: Whenever anyone goes on vacation, ask them to bring their vacation photos to display on the bulletin board. Give the board a title, “Jim’s 2014 Vacation.”
If anyone has a new baby or grand-baby, has a kid graduating from high school, college, medical school, passed the Bar, etc. ask them to bring in photos for the brag board.
If anyone receives an award, buys a new car, gets married, gets a new pet, wins a volleyball/softball/tennis/golf/bowling/other tournament, whatever… ask them to bring pictures and items for the brag board.
EMPLOYEE OF THE WEEK: For no special reason, this employee gets to have the closest parking spot to the front door of the building for a whole week, plus half an hour of a longer lunch break on Wednesday that they can share with another employee of their choice, and they can be featured on a paper-covered bulletin board in a high traffic area where their coworkers are encouraged to write nice or tastefully funny public compliments about them. Employees are encouraged to tuck notes and small gifts into their private mailbox. The boss might also consider giving this person Friday afternoon off with pay.
LITTLE BEAR BLUE: Purchase a small teddy bear, hopefully a blue one. Copy this poem onto a sheet of paper, laminate it, and tie it to the bear.
I’m sorry to hear you are feeling blue
I’ve been sent to give a big bear hug to you
I’m yours as a reminder for as long as you need me
That someone has noticed and is praying right speedy
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
Don’t worry if you don’t feel you can be stronger much longer
You have people praying and rooting for you
We’re in your corner until you pull through
And one of these days when your sorrow has passed
When you open your eyes and there is sunshine at last
Look for another nearby with a tissue issue you know
Who could use some encouragement deep down in their soul?
Pass me forward along to them as quick as you can
And share some compassion and a helping hand
For we all soon realize just how much it has meant
When in our tough times, caring and bear hugs were sent
When you hear of an employee that is going through a tough time (death of a family member or close friend, divorce, miscarriage, loss of a pet, spouse lost their job, someone is suffering a terrible disease, etc.) set this bear on their desk. As a recipient you keep the bear until there is someone to pass it along to. You have the responsibility to be on the alert and pay it forward.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Celebrate birthdays with a monthly cake and ice cream social in the lounge. Write that month’s birthday celebrants names on balloons and display all over the room. Optional: employees get their birthday off (or half day off) as a personal paid holiday.
Celebrate the SUPER BOWL with a POOL, or MARCH MADNESS with a BRACKET RACE
In celebration of the Super Bowl, organize a 100 squares board. You and your coworkers can purchase squares, with the money going into a prize pool. It is rumored that these are legal as long as ALL the money is given away. Your group may also choose to donate the prize fund to a needy family or local charity. Celebrate March Madness with a bracket pool (basketball) in the same way.
JOKE or FUNNY CARTOON OF-THE-DAY
Send the joke of the day (or scripture, funny cartoon, thought of the day) to everyone’s email, or print it and post it on the wall of the bathroom in every toilet stall. Find a hilarious page-a-day calendar, or use the Sunday funnies or a graphic novel of a riotous cartoon strip (Far Side, Dilbert) and post something new each Monday morning in the bathroom stalls facing the toilets. Maybe you saw a ridiculous picture, or the funny ads, pictures, signs like what used to be featured on Jay Leno. Start collecting and posting these things. Humor is the best medicine for whatever ails you. Spread the joy. You can also post a “power scripture” for the day in those places if your company is okay with it. Log on to K-LOVE.com and use their daily scripture if you want.
Encourage everyone to participate in April Fools. Let it be a free-for-all of practical joking. Pull out all the gags and all the stops, with some discretion. Warn everyone that they might get wet, or dirty, and they will probably get startled at least once. They are not allowed to harm people’s property – such as breaking things or causing harm, nothing that stains is allowed, doing anything permanent. No scratching off paint or applying stickers that won’t come off easily, etc. Also, no mean jokes, no hurtful scemes, nothing that would cause embarrassment or make someone cry. Be fun, but be NICE.
BON APPETITE BOARD
Thinking my coworkers would appreciate it, and wanting to serve them, I put together a bulletin board in our lounge that featured all the menus from all the nearby restaurants. I drove around to all the neighborhood restaurants, from the bowling alley next door to the supper club down the road, and all the fast food places in between, and got their take-out menus. I even went online to find menus and printed them out. I pinned all these menus on the board making sure each one had the phone number for call-in orders, and highlighted those who delivered. It was so nice and convenient to have for when someone didn’t bring lunch and needed to get food delivered, or called in and picked up in a hurry.
At my new job they celebrated every employee’s anniversary – the anniversary of the date they came to work there. They celebrated by having donuts brought in at 10:00AM. As soon as the gooey morsels arrived, everyone gathered around, grabbed a confection, and took a short break from their work to socialize. After several minutes everyone meandered dutifully back to their lonely little cubicles, or the shop, and went back to work. It was kind of a nice little thing.
FIVE MINUTE MUG CAKES
One cold and snowy afternoon, after lunch, I showed up to work with all the stuff to make 5-minute, microwave mug cakes. It was a nice afternoon snack and a huge highlight to an otherwise dreary day. We had so much fun with it that I decided I needed to share it with you all. I also discovered that any old cake mix will do. We are not limited to the chocolate cake recipe that has circulated on the Internet. The following recipe has been tested by me, and my coworkers, and works perfectly.
What you will need:
1 large mug for each person
A Tablespoon to measure with
Box cake mixes of choice
Canned frostings of choice, or Cool Whip
In your large mug place 5 rounded Tablespoons of cake mix. Add 3 Tablespoons of oil and 3 Tablespoons of milk. Break an egg in a separate bowl/dish/cup and scramble it. Use just about 1 tsp of egg per mug cake. Stir until well mixed. Place in microwave for TWO minutes on high. The cake will begin rising above the rim of the mug when it is close to being done. If the mug is too small the batter may spill over, but it won’t make a mess. Of course microwaves vary and it may take the cake longer to cook. Do the spring back test and if still doughy return it to the microwave for another 30 seconds. When the cake is finished cooking, remove it from the microwave and let it cool. Frost as desired.
Monthly Mini Theme Parties for the Office Lounge
At the school where I worked many moons ago, the staff took turns, by grade level, decorating the lounge and hosting a monthly luncheon. Usually they were things like “A Salad Bar” or “Soup & Sandwiches” or “Loaded Baked Potato Bar” or “Hot Dog Bar” or we went with themes like “Italian,” “Mexican,” “Chinese,” and served speghetti, enchiladas, or egg rolls, and all that sort of thing. The staff that were assigned to each month would be in charge of decorating the lounge (if they wished), bringing in snacks, wiping tables, washing dishes, keeping the refrigerator cleaned out, etc., and providing the end-of-the-month carry-in lunch. The Parent-Teacher council also brought in a cake for dessert and we celebrated all the birthdays for the month as well! It was a really nice thing! I served on this committee many times and here are some of the ideas the ladies and I came up with:
The holidays in September are Grandparent’s Day, Patriot’s Day, and usually the first day of autumn.
Theme 1: Back to School
Decorations: Green checkered place mats, baskets of apples, hand bells, cups full of sharpened pencils, and slates with a stick of chalk laid across each.
Table Games and Diversions: Famous Lines (write a famous line up on the board, something from a book or movie, that everyone can write a guess to on the board next to it and then sign their name next to their guess. The correct answer wins a prize in their mailbox and a new famous line is posted).
Luncheon: Crock-pot Sloppy Joes, buns, chips, veggie tray, and desserts
Theme 1: Scarecrows
Decorations: Homemade scarecrows, pumpkins, Indian corn, corn stalk bundles, rakes, and colorful fall paper leaves.
Table Games and Diversions: Get a beautiful 1000 piece fall scene puzzle started for people to work on at their leisure, as they are available.
Luncheon: Crock-pot Soups, green salad with toppings, and crusty bread. Desserts.
Theme 2: Spooky Halloween
Decorations: Spooky music, dangling spider webs, bowls of “Body Parts” gummy candy, or have an Alfred Hitchcock or other chilling mystery book-on-cassette playing at all times.
Table Games and Diversions: Have an ongoing mystery game (like Clue, or How to Host a Murder Mystery) going in the lounge, where you give clues and tidbits of info every day. You can take a short story mystery from a book and post a small portion of it every day for employees to read and follow. The first person to solve the mystery by writing down their guess and turning it in to you wins a prize. Keep one going all month long.
Luncheon: Hot wings, celery and blue cheese, salads, beverages, and spice cake for dessert (with plastic bugs crawling all over it).
Theme 3: Oktoberfest (see my Oktoberfest blog post for ideas)
Theme 1: Pilgrims and Thanksgiving harvest theme
Decorations: Pilgrims, Indians, and Mayflower ships, Cornucopias filled with corn, gourds, pumpkins, etc. and turkeys.
Table Games and Diversions: Cover the tables in light colored paper and leave colored Crayola markers around for people to randomly jot down things they are thankful for.
Luncheon: A Thanksgiving feast (anything but turkey – please), but don’t forget the sweet potato pie! Try a variety of chowders and finger sandwiches.
Theme 2: Elections (if it is an election year)
Decorations: Patriotic with Democrat and Republican symbols
Table Games and Diversions: Election trivia and candidate profiles, absentee voter cards. Have reruns of West Wing or The American President playing on the TV.
Luncheon: Lasagnas and spaghetti, garlic toast, green salads, desserts
Theme 1: Christmas (what else?)
Decorations: Find or make little stockings for each staff member and fill with a candy cane or other small gift and use to decorate the tree. Bring in a CD player and a variety of Christmas music that will appeal to everyone’s taste and play it continuously. Stew some good smelling potpourri in a crock-pot.
Table Games and Diversions: Scatter around on the tables Christmas Trivia cards. Also scatter around either some little toys that people can play with, or the parts to a super easy craft that each person can make. Maybe the craft can be to make decorations for the tree. Or let everyone decorate their own sock.
Luncheon: Since everyone is sooooooo busy over the holidays, the luncheon can be pizza delivery, a large bagged salad, and a ½ sheet store bought cake (or whatever size works). Instead of everyone signing up to bring something, they just put $3 in the envelope instead and cross their name off the list as paid.
Need ideas for your company Christmas party? I’ve got a few ideas for that…. see the post coming soon.
Theme 1: Super Bowl
Decorations: Cover the tables with green paper and draw the yardage lines -or- use vinyl tablecloths with this theme if you can find them. If you can find pennants from every team in the NFL, get them. If not, try to make them out of construction paper. Toss footballs, mini-helmets, jersey shaped beverage coozies, pennants, pompoms, referee whistles, megaphones, big foam hands with the #1 finger extended, and everything football around on the tables. Toss some Easter egg basket grass under the items. Hang the pennants from the ceiling. As each weekend of January passes remove the pennants of the teams who are eliminated in the playoffs and post the updated bracket chart. Keep the lounge/break room stocked with finger food snack items: chips and dips, salsa, guacamole, tortilla chips, crackers and cheese, veggie trays, etc. all month if possible. Add some excitement with an NFL Power and Glory CD, or the more recent NFL Films Original Music by David Robidoux Promotional Release (2007), Fox Sports Presents: Game Time! ~ Various Artists, Stadium Anthems: Music for the Fans ~ Various Artists, and ABC Monday Night Football Jamz ~ Various Artists.
Table Games and Diversions: Set up a goal post (inflatable from Oriental Trading Co.) and some Nerf footballs that employees can toss around and kick field goals with. Oriental Trading also has a football player cut-out with a hole where his hands should be so that you can practice tossing the football right to his hands. And the little football table game is a must.
A football 100 Squares Pool. The week before the Super Bowl game post a football pool poster in the break room. It will cost each employee *$3 per square to write their name on a square of the board. You can make them answer a trivia question to decide what square they get, or make them roll the dice, or just let them choose. On the Friday before the game fill in the numbers across the top and down the side of the board so everyone will know what score to hope for to give him or her the win. (See complete instructions on how to host this game in the chapter Super Bowl Theme Office Party, page 128). The money is divided into 4 portions and a prize awarded for the score at each quarter of the game. So watch the game and write down the scores. On Monday you will distribute the prizes. I am told that as long as all money is distributed it is legal to hold these. If you’re uncomfortable with the gambling aspect you can have everyone write on their square a worthy charity or needy family in the company who could use the donation, then on Monday those organizations or persons will get the prize monies. (*Amount is your choice).
Luncheon: Host a “tailgate party.” Decorate a table to look like the tailgate of a truck. If someone has a BBQ grill and wants to grill hot dogs and burgers for everyone – perfect! If not, carry-in various kinds of chili – like a chili cook-off. Or cook hot dogs in a large pot and let people create their own hotdog concoctions by having an array of toppings (sweet relish, dill relish, chopped onions, hot peppers, sauerkraut, chili, shredded cheese, thin sliced pickle wedges, jalapenos, mustard, ketchup, tomatoes, etc.). Serve with potato chips, a veggie tray, and chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
On casual dress day encourage everyone to wear his or her sports team shirts or colors.
Theme 2: Snowman
Decorations: Ask everyone to bring a snowman from home. Almost everyone has either a stuffed snowman, a picture of a snowman, a snowman mug, a snowman candy jar, or something tucked back in a closet. Cover the tables in blue paper and set snowman parts around on the tables (corncob pipe, lumps of coal, top hat, scarves, small tree branches with mittens fitted on the ends, rubber boots, etc.)
Table Games and Diversions: Wad up 40 or 50 sheets of white paper into balls. Stack the balls in bowls and set around on the tables. Encourage people to engage in a snowball fight whenever the mood strikes them.
Luncheon: Hot pastrami sandwiches; Tater skins; Spinach Salad with cranberries and walnuts, and Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette; and shave ice or snow cones for dessert.
Theme 1: Academy Awards & Hollywood Walk of Fame
Decorations: Cover the table in Black, Silver, and Gold table cloths. Put centerpieces of film reels, film strip, movie trivia cards, clapboards and balloon bouquets. Hang gold stars and spot light and camera decorations from the ceiling. Roll out a red carpet from the entrance of the room to the center. Make a Hollywood Walk-of-Fame star tile for each employee with their name on it. Hang the WOF stars all over the walls of the room. Decorate the snack table with a sign that says, “Studio Commissary,” and go with snacks with names like “James BonBons with Halle Berry Sauce” or “The Queen’s scones.” Or set out bowls of flavored popcorn and Raisinettes and Juji Fruits. Set up a boom box with a CD of Movie Themes music. See also my Academy Awards post specifically featuring this idea.
Games and Diversions: Lay out several packets of sticky notes and pens. Feature 10 Walk-of-Fame stars per week to pin up on the board. Ask employees to post sticky notes with compliments to the front of each of the stars each week. Take those stars down on Friday, attach the sticky notes to the back and laminate them. Rotate in 10 new Walk-of-Famers the following week. At the end of the month give everyone their stars with the peer compliments attached and laminated to the back. Good morale booster.
Come up with 20 or more gag awards (best dressed, best supporting staff member, most animated story teller, most pleasant intercom voice, most punctual, best sense of humor, most artistic, etc.) for which you can hand out ballots and receive nominations for each category. Have an awards show at the luncheon and give out little “Oscars” to each employee for outstanding effort in whatever category they were nominated and got the most votes for.
Luncheon: Have a carry in salad luncheon: Crab Salad, pasta salad, bean salad, green salad, etc.; crusty rolls and butter; and sparkling cider in champagne flutes. Strawberries, angel food, and Tobblerone chocolate fondue for dessert.
Theme 2: Valentine’s Day
Decorations: Cover the tables in pink paper with sheer lace over the top. Toss around rich red paper hearts, heart shaped boxes of chocolate, rose peddles, and cupid and heart shaped balloons. Set up the boom box with CD’s of romantic love songs.
Games and Diversions: Set out the makings for valentines, red construction paper, white lace, little stickers and stick-on jewels, Cupids, small dowel rods and arrow heads and fletching that can be attached to the ends after it is woven through the heart, black sharpie markers. Ask everyone to participate in a Valentine exchange, just like the kids do at school. Everybody makes a special box for their desk for coworkers to drop Valentines in. Also, put everyone’s name in a hat and have everyone draw out one name to be a secret pal to all month.
Host a poetry contest. Everyone has to post a poem (any size and any kind) in the break room, but they can’t sign their names to them. Everyone reads and judges the poems. They put their choice for best poem on a slip of paper and drop it into the secret ballot box. At the end of the month the ballots are tallied and the winner announced. At that time the poet’s name may be disclosed.
Luncheon: Gazpacho soup or Borscht (hot or cold), heart-shaped shrimp sandwiches, Strawberry smoothies or white sparkling cider, Red Velvet Cake for dessert.
8 cups beef broth
1 pound cooked tender beef stew meat or sliced Kielbasa
1 large onion, peeled, quartered
4 large beets, peeled, chopped
1 leek chopped
3 stalks celery sliced
4 carrots, peeled, chopped
1 large russet potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 14 oz. can stewed tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped fresh dill (or parsley)
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
1 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Bring 4 cups of the beef broth, the beef stew meat, and onion to boil in large pot. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 30 minutes.
2 Add remaining 4 cups broth, beets, leek, celery, carrots, and potato; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
3 Stir in meat, cabbage and 1/2 cup dill; cook until cabbage is tender, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in vinegar.
Ladle soup into bowls. Top with sour cream and remaining 1/4 cup dill.
3 cups tomatoes, red ripe, seeded and diced
2 cups red bell pepper, diced medium
2 cups red onions, diced medium
1/2 cup celery, diced medium
2 cups cucumber, diced medium
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 cups organic vegetable juice
1 teaspoon cumin
1 Mix diced tomato, peppers, red onions, celery and cucumber together in a medium bowl.
2 Divide the mixture in half and separate in two bowls.
3 Add garlic to one of the bowls and empty into blender. Add vinegar to the blender and puree until smooth.
4 Add the vegetable juice, cayenne and cumin to the blender. Blend.
5 Add the puree to the bowl of diced vegetables.
6 Refrigerate overnight. Garnish with lemon and cilantro.
SHRIMP LUNCHEON SANDWICHES
1 small package (3 ounces) cream cheese
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
dash garlic powder
1 cup chopped cooked cleaned shrimp
1/4 cup finely chopped celery
1 teaspoon grated onion
20 to 40 slices white sandwich bread, lightly buttered
Blend cream cheese with mayonnaise; blend in the ketchup, mustard, and garlic powder. Stir in shrimp, celery, and grated onion. Use as a filling spread only in the center of two slices of sandwich bread. Or if you can squeeze two cookie cutter cuttings out of a slice of bread, spread the filling in each of the opposing corners of the bread. Use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut the sandwiches out. Toss the scraps. Makes about 1 cup of shrimp sandwich filling, for about 20 sandwiches.
Theme 1: Saint Patrick’s Day
Decorations: Cover the tables in light green table cloths or paper. Cut out dozens of various sized dark green shamrocks from construction paper. On each shamrock write an Irish blessing. Scatter these blessings around on the tables. Set out small black kettles filled with gold foil covered chocolate coins. Make rainbows out of construction paper and toss around on tables under and around the kettles. Hang up paper leprechaun cut-outs. Set up a CD player with Irish pub music, or Celtic music, or Riverdance music. Lounge snacks : Corned beef dip and toasted rye bread; scones and Irish tea or coffee.
Table Games and Diversions: Find a nice coffee table book about Ireland and set that out to be browsed through. Encourage everyone to greet coworkers with an Irish blessing every day.
Luncheon: Baked potatoes with various toppings (in memory of the potato famine), iced coffee with Irish Cream, and chocolate cake for dessert.
Theme 2: March Madness ***Basically like the indoor tailgate from January above, except with a basketball theme.
Theme 3: Easter (If it falls in March)
Decorations: nests with colored eggs in them, and pans of real green grass with eggs nestled in them.
Table Games and Diversions: (craft) have all the stuff sitting out to make decorated eggs. Have a large basket of hollowed out eggshells. Everyone gets to keep what they make.
Host an Easter Egg Hunt. Pick the day, maybe the Thursday before Good Friday. The night before, go and hide plastic eggs all over the building. Hide some in each person’s desk and more in the break room. Tuck little jellybeans, Hershey kisses, and/or cute notes (fortunes or blessings) inside the eggs. Place a small paper basket on each person’s desk with a note inviting him or her to the Easter egg hunt at a specific time. The instructions should tell them that eggs have been hidden in their personal space and in the break room and that all they find are theirs. Also inform them that the person who finds the most eggs will win a special prize so that they need to put their number found next to their name on the poster in the break room. This is a lot less work if you can find an accomplice to share the labor and expense with you. The prize can be anything you want: car wash tokens, movie passes, pizza gift certificate, post-it notes and colored pens, a pedicure/manicure, etc.
Luncheon: Chinese take-out, Almond cookies for dessert
Theme 1: April Showers Bring May Flowers
Decorations: Decorate the break room with hanging umbrellas, rainbows and big raindrops. Cover the tables with light blue paper and set rubber duckies and rubber boots as centerpieces. Fill each rubber boot with a bouquet of daffodils or tulips (real or silk). Play a CD of nature sounds – thunder and rain.
Table Games and Diversions: Purchase a small clay pot for each employee and let each staff member fill a pot with potting mix and a plant seed of their choice. Have them stake in a marker to tell what the plant is (flower, vegetable, etc. be specific) and also their name. Scatter the empty seed packages around on the tables along with little cards that say, “April showers bring May flowers”. Water the plants every day as needed. Give away the pots to each employee on the last working day of April.
Luncheon: Soup and Sandwiches, and Mississippi Mud Cake flowerpots for dessert.
Theme 2: April Fools
April Fool’s day has to be a day of practical jokes and silliness. It can be a silly dress up day, or a crazy hat day. Or everyone can wear his or her clothes backwards. Make it a free-for-all of clowning around. Be creative.
Decorations: The three little monkeys (hear/see/speak no evil)
Table Games and Diversions: A month of practical jokes and pranks that start with a week of a white elephant being left on people’s desks. If you find the elephant on your desk you have to do something nice for someone AND cleverly hide the elephant in someone else’s desk without being caught. If you get caught you have to do something nice for the person that caught you, and try ditching it again on someone else. This is followed by three weeks of Friday dress-up days. The dress code will be posted in the lounge on Thursday. It may be a special color (red, purple, green), or style (cowboy, hippie, Goth), or pattern (plaid, polka dot, stripe) that you will have to wear. If you forget and don’t wear what you’re supposed to you have to buy a chocolate bar for every staff member and bring it to them on Monday. If you don’t bring the chocolate – you have to wear the ugly shirt all day on Monday. (The ugly shirt is a shirt that someone brings that must be totally hideous looking).
Luncheon: Have you ever had a “mystery dinner?” (<– Click this link for the basic instructions). Try to adapt it down to a 30-minute version, or however long the lunch breaks are at your workplace. Everyone signs-up and brings their potluck items as with any other luncheon, but with this luncheon you place a number on each dish and keep them hidden from the employees away from the eating area. The day before the luncheon require everyone to fill out a menu card where they choose their “lunch” from the code words listed. They must do this before they leave work on Thursday and sign their name to their menu and leave them in the envelope posted. The next day, you make up each person’s meal plate based upon their choices and serve it to them. The combinations of foods may be hysterical, as well as the utensils they are required to eat it with. Your meal can be a theme or it can be a hodge-podge of whatever people want to bring – including strange things, but nothing they wouldn’t be willing to eat themselves.
Make the Casual dress day a crazy hat day too.
Theme 1: Gardening
Decorations: gardening gloves, hand shovels and rakes, seed packets, straw hats, and watering cans
Table Games and Diversions: Guessing Jars. Each week set out a large jar filled with items (jelly beans, peanut M&Ms, dumdum suckers, bubble gum, Hot Tamales, etc.). Set out stacks of small note papers for staff to write their guesses on. They should put their name on the sheet with their guess and place it in the box next to the guessing jar. The person who comes closest to the correct number wins the contents of the jar. Winners are determined on Fridays.
Luncheon: Meatball subs with marinara sauce and parmesan cheese, green salad with Italian dressing, beverages, and assorted desserts.
Theme 2: Cinco de Mayo – Fiesta
Decorations: Cover the tables with Mexican blankets, Use sombreros, piñatas, maracas, ponchos, and pottery for centerpieces. Also have a nice mariachi band playing on the CD player for atmosphere.
Table Games and Diversions: Learn Spanish words by scattering Lotería cards around on the tables along with English/Spanish dictionaries.
Luncheon: Nacho or Taco Bar, fruity lemonade, and cinnamon crisps for dessert
Theme 3: Mother’s Day
Decorations: cover the tables in pretty floral tablecloths with lace tablecloths layered over. Use teapots and teacups and little wrapped tea bags for centerpieces.
Table Games and Diversions: Ask each of the staff to bring a picture of their mom that we can post on the Guess Who? Board. Each photo will have a number on the front of it so staff members can guess what mother goes with which staff member.
Luncheon: Make you own sandwich bar with assorted bread, cold cuts, cheeses, condiments, lettuce, sprouts, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, etc., a large veggie tray, potato chips, assorted beverages, and strawberry parfaits for dessert, or order a few 5 foot subs from the deli.
Theme 1: Beach Party
Decorations: string ropes up across the room going in several directions. Hang beach towels, bikinis and wraps on the lines with clothes pins. Sprinkle a little sand in the center of each table, and use beach balls, flip flops, Frisbees, sand box toys as centerpieces. Perch beach umbrellas in the corners of the room or stand in the center of the tables by pushing four tables together leaving a gap in the center for the umbrella rod and hanging it from the ceiling. Play a CD of either Jamaican Reggae or Beach Boys music on continuous play.
Table Games and Diversions: Cover the tables in white paper and set out little sand box buckets filled with crayons. Encourage the staff to doodle and draw on the paper. Set up some four on four basketball courts in open areas of the room, using Nerf basketballs and hoops and masking tape on the floor. Encourage tournaments during break times. You can also incorporate some cruise ship games, like shuffle board, darts, or an indoor putting green. Or set up a volleyball net and court outside, or crocket, for some outdoor fun during breaks.
Luncheon: grilled kabobs, chips, chocolate chip cookies, and watermelon.
Theme 2: Father’s Day
Decorations: Cover the tables in brown paper. Use tackle boxes, fishing lures, and nets for centerpieces. Hang a sign on the door that says, “Gone Fishing.”
Table Games and Diversions: Set out a half dozen of those electronic fishing games, that look like the handle of a fishing pole with a rod and reel, that you cast and then watch the video screen to see if you caught anything. Ask around… you probably have a few people on staff that have one and will donate it to the lounge for a month.
Have several tall-tale fishing stories printed out on paper that you can lay around. Have the guys bring pictures of their big catches that you can post on a board.
Luncheon: Fish and Chips. Bake up several batches of battered fish and fat French fries. Offer lemon wedges, tartar sauce, and malt vinegar as condiments. Brew up some fresh sun tea and lemonade. And Klondike Bars for dessert .
Theme 1: Red/White/Blue
Decorations: Anything patriotic, and patriotic music too (like they play at the fireworks display)
Table Games and Diversions: Have a frog-jumping contest in the hallway using plastic frogs.
Luncheon: Have a picnic with various yard games set up (sack races, three-legged races, hula hoop contest, crocket, Frisbee, volleyball). Serve BBQ beef, salsa, crusty bread, baked beans, fruit salads, and popsicles for dessert.
Theme 1: Summer/Picnic
Decorations: Pots of grass, hand shears, hammocks
Table Games and Diversions: How many words can you make from the word (?). Write a very long word on the board and place dry erase markers for people to write smaller words all around. If the staff together can come up with 100 total words we get to have a root beer float party on Friday.
Luncheon: grilled burgers, corn-on-the-cob, and watermelon
Theme 2: Dog days of Summer
Decorations: anything dog related, stuffed animal dogs, collars, dog food bowls, leashes, obedience school ads, rolled up newspapers, fire hydrants, etc.
Table Games and Diversions: Dog trivia games, funny dog names, famous dogs and dogs of movies stars, dog tricks
Luncheon: Hot dogs with all the trimmings, baked beans, salads, ice cream
So there, there you go. You can poke your head out of the hole now and come out of hiding. You’re armed with plenty of ideas to keep you busy. Don’t be a little rascal. Be pro-active!!!
I’m sure hoping that if you were in a bad mood, had a bad attitude about work, or maybe just in a funk, that something here pepped you up, encouraged you, or gave you the intestinal fortitude to go fight a good fight and make your workplace a fun place for everyone, including YOU!!! 🙂