Last month Access held a blood drive, our second of the year.

All summer we're having our own mini athletic competitions (inspired by the big event in Rio) for four square, foosball, HORSE, and ping pong.

Last week we held a health fair. Next month will be a 5K.

There's a food drive, company parties, employee appreciation day and the list goes on and on. 

With all this stuff going on, you're probably wondering when we have time to actually work.

Actually, we think all of this "other stuff" helps us do better work. And there's data behind it to prove our point.

The Office Community

In generations past workers were asked to clock in and toil for eight hours, with only the occasional break. That worked well when you could measure how many widgets they produced on the assembly line every day.

It's far different today. Assembly line-style working is past. Even the 15 minute break is gone for most workers.

Today the office is a community all its own. Many employees are spending more waking hours at the office than they do at home on week days.

Every community needs a culture, and a culture that's all about work, work, and work sounds like something people would really like to migrate away from.New Call-to-action

Here are the three primary ways companies benefit by encouraging employees to get involved in non-work activities at work:

Trust

Allowing employees to walk away from their cubicles for a coffee break, a quick walk, or a volunteering opportunity builds trust. It shows that the company is willing to treat them as adults, and trust that they'll get their work done on time.

Trust allows employees to be comfortable to explore and find new, better ways to do their jobs. It's the invisible element that gives them pause when considering jumping to a new job.

Would you work harder if you knew you could trust your employer? Most people would. Trust is cited as a major contributor to employee satisfaction and loyalty in a number of surveys:

  • 55% of employees cite trust between employees and senior management as very important to job satisfaction
  • Millennials' top job satisfaction contributors: Respectful treatment (66%)
  • 24% of employees don’t trust their employer
Side note: Don't ask employees to clock out when the company holds an event. Punishing employees for taking part in a company function is a sure-fire way to discourage attendance of company functions.

 

Cohesion

Communities require cohesion, even among people with drastically different roles. Cohesion can't happen when employees are chained to cubicles or closed offices.

Think about spending a few minutes at the water cooler with a top executive. You can learn a lot about the company's goals in just a few minutes. Or, just learn that the exec likes golf.

Or maybe someone from customer service is giving blood next to someone from product development. There's a lot of potential synergy that could be exchanged there. Or at minimum, a friendship that could develop.

Proximity increases propinquity. The more you can put employees together, the more they become a family. That makes them far more likely to reach goals, come up with creative solutions, and stay on the same page.

From our employee engagement stats:

  • Among employees who say they have no intention of leaving their jobs, 54% cite liking the people they work with as their top reason for staying
  • 88% of Millennials want their coworkers to be their friends
  • 46% of Millennials would be more likely to make a donation to a corporate giving program if a coworker encouraged them to
  • One-third of millennials think socializing with coworkers will help them move up the ladder (compared to 5% of Baby Boomers)
  • Nearly 40% of employees indicated their co-workers as the top reason they love their company
  • 58% of working Americans claim that their coworkers are more productive at work when they're happy

For hundreds of thousands of years, humans have thrived based on social connections and interactions. The more cohesion you can build among individuals and teams, the better work you'll see produced.

Balance

This is the biggest reason why you should encourage a variety of activities at work.

You don't employ robots.

Robots can be given a task to perform and will do so repeatedly until you tell them to stop.

Humans can't even take a couple hours of repetitive work.

Seriously, try bingeing on Netflix for eight consecutive hours. It sounds cool, but you'll be pulling your hair out halfway through.

People crave balance, but right now they're losing it. Most people aren't using their vacation days, they're working well over 40 hours a week, and they're checking work emails 24/7/365 thanks to smartphones.

003.jpgOn the surface it sounds like a boss' dream, but that always-on mentality hurts productivity and leads to burnout.

Get people out of their desks. Let them mingle, learn, laugh, volunteer, give back, vacation. Anything but work.

Give them the balance that they're not allowing themselves to have, but they still crave:

  • Among employees who say they have no intention of leaving their jobs, 50% cite good work/life balance
  • 40% of job seekers will leave for another job to find better work-life balance
  • 41% of employees believe work-life balance is impossible to achieve
  • 14% of employees will leave if they don’t have a healthy work-life balance
  • Nearly 40% of employees said they wished their employer cared more about their work/life balance

You can't make people stop working when the work day is done, but you can discourage it.

If employees are unwilling to mix in more life with their work, then integrating non-work activities into the office is your next best option.

Does Your Office Look Like "Midnight Express"?

People aren't robots, and most of you aren't running an assembly line. To maximize productivity and engagement, you have to enable brains to function. Most brains don't do their best work under conditions that resemble Turkish prisons.

People need interaction. They need to know it's okay to chat with colleagues about last night's game.

They need to trust their colleagues. As a unit, they need to trust their employer. They need to be comfortable, not vulnerable.

We're all grownups. You'll know when productivity sags, and when non-work activities need to be dialed down. And there is a breaking point, but odds are you'll never reach it.

Your employees are likely spending half (or more) of their waking hours with your business. Give them variety, a chance to unplug and unwind on the company's dime.

It'll pay off in happier, more engaged, more dialed-in employees.

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Topics: Employee Engagement + Loyalty, Benefits Trends

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brandon is a writer and marketer for Access Development. He's a frequent blogger on customer and employee engagement & loyalty, consumer trends, and branding.
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