As co-founder of the company, my brother Darrell made office culture one of his primary areas of focus. Largely inspired by his hard work and determination, we were eventually able to cure our cultural ills, and even had a very complimentary piece written about us in Business Insider titled, Why Gamers Love Working for Facebook Dating-App Developer SNAP Interactive.
The key to this healthy turnaround for us was a series of creative “office culture hacks” we implemented to make everyone look forward to coming to work on Mondays.
Looking back, there were probably over 100 different things we did to turn our company culture into one worth bragging out, but I thought I’d call out a few of the highlights. What’s worth noting is that these are primarily small things that any company can introduce into their own office environment to instantly improve their office culture. These are Darrell’s tips to improve your company’s office culture.
1. Massage Day
This is a big winner—trust me, and it’s not nearly as expensive as it sounds. We simply hired someone to come in for a few hours every week or every other week and offered fifteen-minute chair massages to all employees. It takes very little time away from work and isn’t very costly, but it’s something employees really look forward to. And, it’s a really cool perk to be able to advertise in your recruiting package.
2. Company Newsletter
As we grew in size, it became more and more difficult for employees to learn about each other on a personal basis. So, we began a quarterly newsletter where we’d include everything from company highlights and event pictures, to employee birthdays and milestones, as well as profiles and interviews with new employees.
3. Summer Fridays
From Memorial Day to Labor Day we’d allow employees to leave any time after 4:):00 p.m. on Fridays. The couple of hours in lost productivity were more than made up for by the goodwill generated from this. We even encouraged employees to submit photos of how they were spending their Summer Friday, and we put a collage of them into the newsletter.
4. Birthday Donations
As we grew, it became more and more difficult to acknowledge birthdays on an individual basis and challenging to find a convenient time to gather everyone together for cake. Still, we wanted to continue celebrating employee birthdays. So, we came up with the cool idea of offering employees $100 to donate to the charity of their choice on their birthday. Employees were asked to write a paragraph explaining what the charity was, who it helped, and why they selected it. Then, we’d include each of these write-ups in the company newsletters for all to read. This is a very simple “feel-good” item that simultaneously helps good causes in the process.
We re-created the “History of SNAP” in a timeline that went across the entirety of one of our whiteboard walls. The timeline contained a picture of each employee right above their start date along with key company milestones.
Everyone loves ping-pong but I never imagined what a hit this would be in the office. Employees would retreat to the ping-pong table for a quick game during the day and specifically stay late just to get in a few more matches. We even began to hold tournaments to determine the office champ (the entire company would gather round to watch the finals), and I went so far as to order a custom-made WWF-style championship belt to award to the winner. A little friendly competition goes a long way toward team bonding.
7. Chipwich Wednesday
Every Wednesday afternoon, we’d all take a short break to gather in the conference room and enjoy a tasty dessert. On a rotating basis, each employee would get the chance to select a treat for the entire office. We’d give them a budget of around fifty dollars, and employees would have fun trying to one-up each other in coming up with something creative. Some desserts were homemade while others were purchased by those less inclined to bake, but they were all great. Named for the first dessert ever purchased, Chipwich Wednesday was always a weekly hit.
8. A Warm Welcome for New Employees
They say first impressions mean everything, so we wanted to make sure new employees went home smiling on their first day, rather than stressing. A few of things we did to make sure this happened included funny balloons waiting for them at their desk, a small bottle of our custom-labeled Champagne to “celebrate” their arrival, and the introduction to a “buddy” whose job it was to take them out to lunch on their first day, and readily answer any questions they might have.
9. The Culture Club
I put together a group of some of the most creative and enthusiastic employees specifically for the purpose of working on culture-related activities. We’d meet regularly, and new and creative activities (like the ones mentioned on this list) would emerge every time. We called ourselves the “Culture Club,” and yes, some meetings even included the playing of “Karma Chameleon!”
10. “Excuse Me, I Believe You Have My[Anniversary] Stapler”
– With so much focus on recruiting new employees in the start-up world, we thought it would be nice to specifically acknowledge those who stay with us for a while. We came up with the hilarious idea to mark an employee’s one-year anniversary at SNAP by awarding them a red Swingline stapler, engraved with their name and presented to them at our company-wide morning meeting on the day of their one-year anniversary. People loved this, and new employees would eagerly count down the days until they earned their stapler and could post a picture of it on Facebook.
Changing an office culture requires time, effort, and a commitment to the cause, but I learned that little things (and fun) go a long way. We spend more time with the people we work with than we do with our families, so making the workplace fun and bringing employees closer together pays dividends in spades.