The Way We Work
August 19, 2013 by Guest Blogger

These days, it’s easy to think that adding a ping pong table or instituting Hawaiian Shirt Fridays is enough to create the work-hard, play-hard culture that has served companies like Google and Facebook so well. But in reality, it takes more than superficial perks to truly invigorate your company’s culture and transform it into a workplace where passionate people are knocking down your door trying to find out how they can join the company. It can be even more challenging to create this kind of culture when key members of your team work remotely, but that’s actually when it becomes most important.  

To help you get started, here are four critical tactics that will energize your business and establish a vibrant culture, fostering high productivity and record-breaking results.

1. Make sure you’re on a mission.
To attract and retain people with the kind of talent, integrity and work ethic needed to take your business to the next level, you need to tap into what makes their work for you more than just a job. Identify the gut-level purpose of your company and make sure it is the lifeblood of every decision you make and every new project you implement. This sounds like a weighty task, but it’s a lot easier if you start with a solid mission statement.

A mission statement is more than just a collection of pretty words. It should compel your team to strive harder because what the company is doing makes a deep impact on the world around it. No matter what your business does, there was a spark that got it started. Breathe constant life into that spark and watch it burst into flame.

2. Have a solid game plan.
No matter how hard a team works, without a common objective and clear plan to get there, they are unlikely to be wearing a Super Bowl ring anytime soon. You need to make sure everyone is on the same page and that your strategy is clear. Be sure to highlight the value of every player, regardless of their role, to keep your team working toward a collective victory rather than just individual heroism.

For team members who are not in the office on a regular basis, it is crucial to make sure they feel like they are on the field with the rest of their teammates. Utilize regular phone calls or Skype sessions where remote players can virtually be with everyone else for focus sessions, progress updates or simply plugging into the collective energy of the team. As a good rule of thumb, don’t let more than a few days pass without bringing everyone together to check in.

3. Make it fun.
This is where management often gets distracted by the aforementioned ping pong tables. Fostering a fun workplace doesn’t mean contrived or forced play. A team that knows what its goal is and why it’s important can have fun putting in long hours because they are working together and they know they’re winning. Winning is fun and it’s rarely easy to get there.

Additionally, reward effort on a regular basis with sincere, specific praise. Implementing simple tools like countdowns to goals can be highly motivating; employees will vie for the privilege of getting to tear off the next number on your path to victory. After a long night at the office, take the team out for an impromptu dinner to reward the extra effort. At the conclusion of a particularly rough week, surprise them with tickets to a local sporting event or head down to the local bowling alley to blow off some steam. For remote employees, send them a surprise delivery of Chinese food, and Skype with them from the office as you all struggle with your chopsticks and catch up on how everyone is doing. The key is to make the balance between work and play a regular part of your culture and to tie R&R to something measurable.

4. Make sure everyone gets to play.
One of the reasons team sports are so popular is that it feels good to be part of something bigger. However, no one likes to be the one left alone on the bench, and it’s easy for remote employees to feel like they’re always waiting for the coach to put them in. Because their contributions are just as crucial to the team’s collective success, it is imperative that you have a strategy to make them feel like they’re out on the court with everyone else.

Video conferencing on a regular basis is one of the best ways to do this, as seeing each other face to face amplifies the bonding among team members. Assign roles to different staffers during these collaborative sessions and make sure that remote workers can participate fully when it’s their turn. It’s also helpful to utilize email for daily or weekly motivational activities, progress reports and countdowns. Email is a medium that puts local and remote team members on equal footing, as it can make everyone feel like they are just down the hall from one another.

Eager to get started? Identify one strategy you can implement this week to improve your company’s work-hard, play-hard culture, and go from there.

How do you create a work-hard/play-hard culture on your team? Share your tips in the comments section below!

Elli BishopElli Bishop is a writer for BusinessBee, a great place to find solutions to all of your small business needs. In her free time, she enjoys writing, practicing yoga, and playing tennis.