Pumpkin spice season is here, folks, and that means my favorite time of year is upon us–fall. So many good things happen in the autumn:
- beautiful fall foliage (at least in the Midwest where ExactHire calls home),
- tailgating for your favorite sporting events like football and futbol (for all you soccer moms like me out there),
- new fall TV show premieres, and
- an early start to the excitement of the holiday season (and more frequent chances to be thankful and celebrate life with friends and family).
At least a few of the ExactHire employees love to celebrate the season, too. Can you tell?
The activities our “Fun” Committee plans are great ways to break up the work week and give us more chances to connect with each other. Opportunities for connection are increasingly important for employers in today’s web-based workplace and society.
In this blog, I’ll present thirty-three ideas for using the autumnal season to inspire ideas for employee engagement.
1 – Pick a day each fall month for competition and snacks
It’s easy to let time get away from you when it comes to planning culture-building activities frequently enough. Have a recurring “funday” appointment on your office calendar, and then fill in with surprise one-off activities as appropriate.
ExactHire has Monday Funday the third Monday of every month following our all-hands company meeting. In September, we honored various pro golf championship tournaments with a little putt-putt of our own. Of course the winner, our Co-Founder Harlan Schafir, was able to claim our super classy brass vase (make sure you pronounce it vahzzz to sound fancy). The giant cookies being served didn’t hurt employee attendance to this event, either!
2 – Roast some office s’mores
Don’t try this one inside, friends…unless you opt to use the microwave or remember to blow out your candle afterward. But let’s be honest, a candle probably won’t get the job done. Lucky for you, mini kitchen blow torches are reasonably affordable.
3 – Wear your sweatpants to work day
Don’t you wish you already thought of this idea? “Fall” into comfort by sporting your “dressy” sweats.
4 – Take a group trip to pick apples
Go on an outing to gather up ingredients for some red hot applesauce (a favorite from my childhood) or apple dumplings.
5 – Have a pumpkin decorating contest
Whether you carve, paint or decorate, procure some pumpkins for all employees willing to participate. Have a small prize, display them in your office (make sure to take pictures!) and then encourage employees to take them home to friends and family.
6 – Volunteer for a worthy cause
As the weather starts to cool (depending on where you live), many non-profit organizations, including shelters, will have a greater need for assistance and resources to help individuals fend off the elements. Organize a team or department to take time to serve in a capacity that will assist the recipient organization.
7 – Get lost in a corn maze
Experience some healthy team-building and exercise by navigating a local corn maze. Make it interesting by picking teams in such a way that employees who don’t normally work together are grouped into one team.
8 – Put on the cider
Break out the office crock pot and keep some mulled apple cider heated on low throughout the day. Provide plenty of cups nearby and encourage individuals to have conversation while holding a warm mug.
9 – Go on a nature hike
Do some research on the parks department website for your geographic area and learn about hiking trails nearby that are accessible to all interested employees and full of interesting sights.
10 – Have a dance party
Does anyone really do that? Yes, I’ve worked for employers who did this periodically to destress employees. Take requests and then put a season-inspired song on the phone system intercom. Here are some tune ideas to get you started:
- “Thriller” by Michael Jackson (go ahead, channel Jennifer Garner in “13 Going on 30”),
- “Dead Man’s Party” by Oingo Boingo,
- “Toxic” by Britney Spears,
- “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by The Charlie Daniels Band, and
- “Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
11 – Stock the kitchen with fancy coffee creamer
Whether it’s artisanal or just the latest Coffee Mate creation, having access to creamer flavors like pumpkin spice, eggnog, spiced latte and peppermint will perk up anyone’s morning brew.
12 – Who says ugly sweaters are just for Christmas?
You’ve probably already attended a December ugly sweater party, but what about all the other leaf- and pumpkin-inspired wool blends lurking in your closet (or at your nearest Goodwill)? Stage a day where everyone shows off their most fearsome fall top.
13 – Plan an employee hayride
Contact your local community park to check on availability of park shelters and hayrides during the autumn season. Plan an evening event and invite employees and their families to partake in a cookout and cozy wagon ride.
14 – Sponsor an employee team for a 5K
Five-kilometer races abound in the fall in our area. Select a race that benefits a notable cause and sponsor a team of employees who enjoy jogging and walking. Go the extra mile and have a t-shirt design competition, and then produce the winning shirt for all team members to wear during the race.
15 – Decorate the office in fall colors
While you may already deck the halls for the winter holidays, why not bedazzle your working space for Halloween, Thanksgiving and the fall season in general? Pick an afternoon and provide materials for employees to use to spruce up the place (perhaps while drinking apple cider). Materials might include pumpkins, Indian corn, mums, seasonal window clings and a string of novelty lights.
16 – Have a puzzle available in a visible area
There’s something about cooler weather that makes me want to hole up and work a puzzle throughout the week. Consider a monthly puzzle opportunity and encourage employees to grab five minutes here and there to piece it together with others during water cooler breaks.
17 – Board game breaks
Don’t stop at puzzles, schedule occasional “game days” when employees get the chance to spend an hour facing off against other employees to win a game. Hint: Don’t pick Risk–it takes forever! Twister would be a good one to avoid, too. Fun, but relatively short, options might include
- Rummikub, and
18 – Make caramel apples
If you don’t want to unwrap little caramel candies or don’t have access to a stove in the office, then keep it simple with incredibly convenient caramel apple wraps.
19 – Do a treetop obstacle course
The ExactHire team had a thrilling experience in the early fall of 2014 with a Go Ape Zipline and Treetop Adventure course. While this was a more grandiose outing for our team, it was well-deserved as we had just accomplished a major organizational goal and wanted to celebrate.
20 – Have a themed coloring contest
Coloring for relaxation is all the rage these days with adults. Capitalize on this trend, while channeling your prize entry from a childhood turkey-coloring contest, by planning an office coloring competition. Or, just encourage people to help decorate the office for the sake of enjoyment.
21 – Celebrate Oktoberfest
Whether you go with a full-on German fare-inspired pitch-in or keep it simple with some Bavarian pretzels and a beer tasting, you can’t go wrong with food. Encourage any employees who are brewing and/or sausage-making hobbyists to bring in their own creations to share.
21 – Office trick or treating
Engage the entire family by holding trick or treating hours during the late afternoon for children of employees.
22 – Feast at a festival
The fall is a time for bountiful community festivals. Here in Indiana, the Covered Bridge Festival is a multi-day, multi-town event that combines crafts, cuisine and crowds into an explosion of autumn sentiment. I never miss it. Check your state festival guide to see if any local events would make a great extended lunch destination for your crew.
23 – Conduct meetings outdoors
Does your building have a patio space, or even a few picnic tables? If so, unplug the laptop and head outside for a group meeting or a 1-on-1 discussion. Employees will relish the fresh air and everyone can soak up some extra vitamin D.
24 – Utilize seasonal email signatures
Provide templates for employees to occasionally update their email signatures to celebrate the season. This could be as simple as a tasteful pumpkin graphic placement or a link to a fall-inspired blog post.
25 – Go on a scavenger hunt outside
Plan an autumn scavenger hunt as a team-building activity and friendly competition. A recent chaperone experience I had with my son’s class field trip taught me that empty egg cartons make great containers for small scavenger hunt items. Or, if you want to go a more tech-savvy route, have participants share proof of accomplishing hunt challenges by tagging your corporate Instagram account (a great tactic for employment branding).
26 – Plan a spirit week
If you enjoyed dressing up for spirit week during homecoming in high school, then you’re bound to be amused by participating in themed days in the workplace. Solicit employee ideas for themes and consider awarding small prizes each day. Our team had fun with high school day in the past when we showed off our letter jackets, senior portraits and yearbooks.
27 – Have a potluck tailgate
Set up a grill in the parking lot and have employees pitch in by bringing tailgate-themed dishes. Depending on the date and time of the event, consider streaming a favorite sporting event for all to watch while eating. Don’t forget to have everyone wear their favorite jersey, and have a drawing to win a couple of tickets to a college or pro sporting event.
28 – Make some microwave caramel corn
Growing up, the only way I’d eat caramel corn was if it was made in a brown paper bag in the microwave. There’s something about that warm, gooey deliciousness that puts it near the top of my comfort food list. The best part about it is that it is easy to clean up after your office teammates dig into it. Just fold up the bag and toss it in the garbage.
29 – Nerf gun turkey shoot
Looking for inspiration for silly office games? Look no further. Gather up a few Nerf guns from employees’ children, and set up bowling pin-style targets that complement the season on a conference room table. Go for turkeys, pumpkins, ghosts or leaves.
30 – Produce a Thanksgiving card or video
This is one of my favorite ExactHire traditions. Instead of sending a winter holiday card to clients, we always send a Thanksgiving note. In the beginning, we sent cards in the mail, but last year we debuted our first collaborative video production to show thanks. We can’t wait to put one together for this year, too! If you’re nervous about getting started with this kind of project, we have some video production tips for you.
31 – Haunted cubicles
If you want to do more than just host an employee outing to your nearest haunted house, then invite departments to spook out their work areas with Halloween decorations and then choose a winner.
32 – Have a costume contest
What would a fall activity list be without a reference to Halloween costumes? Incentivize employee participation with kooky prize categories such as
- best homemade costume,
- most tech-savvy costume,
- best unconventional materials costume (yes, I’m channeling Project Runway), and
- best pop culture-inspired costume.
33 – Showcase fall creativity
Group interested employees into different teams and give each team a pile of autumn-related items, tape, scissors and a glue gun. Challenge them to create something original that is interesting and/or beautiful, and display the creations in an area highly visible to the rest of the team.
Image credit: Time well spent