Donna Strickland Blog

Great Ideas for Lightening up the Work Place

SECRET PAL…Have everyone in the office/organization/division/etc. write his/her name, address, phone number, birth date (actual date of birth for those with nothing to hide!), and a short list of things they like (such as flowers, sports, chocolate, funny hats, exotic postcards, music, etc.) Fold and put slips in a hat. Then each person picks a slip—making sure that no one has picked their own name (if so, all slips go back in and try again). Once all slips are distributed and everyone has someone else’s name, the fun begins!

You are the Secret Pal to the person whose name you’ve picked. Over the course of the Secret Pal experience (we recommend at least three months), your “mission” is to do creative, spontaneous, fun and enlivening things for your partner…all anonymously, of course. You might send flowers to her/her home; leave a note on her desk about how much you enjoy working together or admire her professional competence or appreciate his contributions to the organization; or perhaps simply send a Valentine’s card in September with a note that you just couldn’t wait until February to send your love.

The important thing is to make it fun and uplifting—and impossible for your partner to guess whom their Secret Pal is. And of course, the extra special fun is that while you are being a Secret Pal to your lucky partner, someone else in the group is YOUR Secret Pal and is doing fun things for you! At the end of the predetermined time span, have a public event where Secret Pals are revealed. 

CONTESTS…Baby pictures; giant bubbles; decorated elbows or feet; golf course that goes through everyone’s office; look alikes; non-toxic joke laugh-a-day challenge (the department where most people participate wins); nerf volleyball or koosh ball for break time; snowman building; paper airplane messages…

LAUGH…Create laugh books (people write in funny anecdotes and non-toxic jokes, bind them and distribute at the end of the quarter or year); cartoon corner; jokes/cartoons on memos and newsletters; smile more; cartoon treasuries or funny magazines in waiting areas and bathrooms; laughter cart; a laughter room; comedy library of books, audio and videotapes…

CLOTHES…Hats; socks (only one?, mismatched?); tacky tourist; tacky/ugly tie; clashing clothes; have Casual Dress Day once a week/month (it’s a way to acknowledge those “secret identities” we all seem to have); Hawaiian; certain colors; inside-out; crazy t-shirts; pajamas; eccentric accessories.

FOOD…Have a backward meal; notes on orange rind; hot dog bananas; use food colors to change colors of food (blue potatoes? purple pasta?); senior management can cook and serve food to employees; do-it-yourself banana splits; gourmet lunch; food Olympic…

CELEBRATE…Special holidays; un-birthdays; Tuesdays; your giggling friends; standing ovations; crazy awards; a person’s first day on the job; airport arrivals; Christmas in July; summer beach party in February; helium balloons (notes inside, give ‘em away, decorate or write messages on the outside); $1.00 present anonymous gift exchange; celebrity for a day; decorate your boss’s office…

SPECIAL DAYS…Secretaries Day celebrations; Family Day:  Bring in photos or bring in the family for lunch, have a lunch out; special office picnic day; Gopher Day:  Delegate things to people (i.e., will you please “go-fer” this or that), or if you come in and see your shadow, you leave and don’t return to work for six weeks; offer massages on April 15th, etc…

BACK TO SCHOOL…Dress like you did in Grade 7; have a lunch box contest; sock hop, hula-hoop contest, etc…

ELEVATORS…Smile, introduce people to each other (you don’t have to know them either); face everyone else; have cartoons on the side walls; call an elevated meeting…

TOLL BOOTHS…The next time you are at a bridge or freeway toll booth, surprise and delight the people in the car behind you by paying their fare as well as your own. For even more mystery, drive off quickly before they can see who you are, or aren’t.

BUTTONS…Pick some with the right messages and bring in to wear and share; have some made up for everyone with the organization’s logo, or everyone can create a department crest; make them non-toxic, e.g. “I’m the gift” or “All this and brains too” or “Hi! It’s okay, I can’t remember your name either” or “Any day above ground is a good day” or “Big hair frightens me.”

THANKS IN ADVANCE…Sure we enjoy and deserve to celebrate and be acknowledged for our contributions when we retire. But why wait? How about a party and a celebration on the first day of a person’s joining your company/organization? What a great way to set the tone and include them as a member of the team.

Adapted from Playfair, Inc.

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