This year, thoughts of spontaneous three-day-weekend road trips or even a face- mask-free afternoon in the park seem like distant dreams. But that doesn’t mean that fun is out the window, too.
Here are just some of the ways companies are getting creative to make Fridays at work more fun or, ahem, bearable.
Make it a no-meetings day
Follow the lead of Diane Eichler, the president and founder of p.r. and marketing firm Decibel Blue, who has enacted this rule companywide. “Decibel Blue’s ‘No-Meeting-on-Fridays’ policy allows our employees to dedicate Fridays to long-term projects or tasks completely undisturbed,” says Eichler.
This has a practical foundation, too.
“As a p.r. and digital marketing agency, it’s industry standard to drop everything if a client calls, which can be incredibly frustrating and hamstring any project work,” she says. “Unless there’s an emergency, we let clients know upfront no meetings will be held on Fridays, which forces them to respect our account team’s boundaries and builds their trust in us.”
If you’re the boss, consider making this your norm. If you’re a few rungs down the totem pole, take the idea up with your manager and see if it can at least be an every-other-week, if not weekly, thing.
Party on Slack
Lighten the mood with a “Find Out Fridays” Slack channel, per the suggestion of Melinda Byerley, founder and CEO of digital marketing agency Timeshare CMO.
“This started as a way to get to know our colleagues. It’s typically hosted during a three-hour window, and one person is the subject of FOF questions,” says Byerley. “Everyone participates and asks questions and responds to their answers. It’s a super fun get-to-know-you exercise.”
Some questions of late have been “How do you unwind after a long day, pre- and post-COVID?,” “What’s your travel style or philosophy?” and “What’s the best concert you’ve ever seen?”
Treat staff to a team-bonding event
Now’s the time to give devoted toilers some TLC, and these gestures don’t have to break the bank.
“We are seeing companies come up with all kinds of incredibly creative ways to connect employees,” says Cassy Aite, co-founder and CEO of Hoppier, whose software helps businesses manage their allowances and stipends for fringe benefits.
“For example, we’ve seen people ordering cocktail kits (or nonalcoholic options) for employees to make a cocktail simultaneously, a gardening kit for employees to make a terrarium together virtually, and even small outdoor pizza ovens for each team member so the group can have a pizza-making contest.”
In recent weeks, Aite has also seen a firm offer a gaming stipend for a team of employees to play “Animal Crossing” or other games together, and a nonprofit created a benefit through which each employee has an allowance to spend on a charity of choice and then share why with the rest of the team. One company has even created an allowance for a funny costume to wear on the quarterly Zoom call.
Make it a “Yay Day!”
Alec Sammann, the CEO of fourth-generation family-owned eyeglass company Peepers, hosts monthly “Yay Days” whenever the team meets their sales goals.
“Pre-coronavirus, this could be anything from an outside blowup obstacle course to snow cones and food trucks for our team,” says Sammann. “While working remotely, we have had to think outside the box and have so far hosted virtual scavenger hunts and created a team cookbook to share our quarantine recipes.”
To make this work, designate a different staffer to be the “Yay Day” organizer each Friday and plan a special digital experience for the team. Some ideas: A group meditation or yoga class to unwind, or a book club discussion. (These days, nothing hits the spot like old classics to get us through these harried times, so think “The Catcher in the Rye” rather than a buzzy new thriller. )
Or, host a chess tournament via Chess.com. During the second week in June alone, over 50,000 people joined clubs on the site. Amid the pandemic, they’ve seen many companies, from small businesses to multinational corporations, create clubs and host tournaments. To help promote camaraderie, a notes section, chat room and forum is built into each club.
Stretch it out
Dr. Sebastian Kverneland, a Los Angeles-based chiropractor and founder of Scandinavian Health Institute, has created a class called “Summer Friday — it’s never too late in the week to feel great” via Zoom, complete with wellness tips and plenty of team-bonding opportunities. Let HR know your sore neck and back could use a tune-up and have them reach out to coordinate via his Web site (sessions from $ 600).
Or, treat yourself to the free gem that is “Yoga with Adriene: Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Relief” on YouTube and re-emerge a radiant, realigned self a mere 17 minutes later.
Belt it out
Work with folks who have serious vocal chops? Collaborate with your team to create a company anthem, complete with original music and lyrics, with a virtual class from SongDivision (starting rate: $ 2,000).
This virtual team-building exercise runs 60 to 90 minutes, and on the East Coast is typically led by Angus Clark, USA GM (who plays with Cher, in the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and in Broadway’s “Rock of Ages”) and features professional backup musicians.
Music trivia and other fun challenges are thrown into the wild symphonic ride. Bonus: After the session, an MP3 version of the song is recorded for all attendees to enjoy.