Holiday Gift Giving in the Office

A few suggestions for giving holiday gifts in the office…

If you collectively agree to do a gift exchange, organize a White Elephant swap or Secret Santa event because buying a gift for everyone in the office is unrealistic and expensive.

White Elephant swap – set a dollar amount (we did $10) and have everyone bring in a WRAPPED gift for that amount. Put all of the gifts in the center of the room, and have all participants draw a number 1 through how ever many people brought gifts. The person with number one goes first, and selects any gift that he wants from the pile. He then opens the gift, and sets it in front of him. Then the person with number two can either choose a gift from the center pile, or “steal” the gift from person #1. Gifts can only be stolen three times before they are “dead,” and stuck with whoever has them at that point. If the gift was stolen from person #1, he would choose a new gift from the center, unwrap it, and place it in front of him, just as before. Person #1 could not immediately steal his original gift back from person #2, but if a steal occurs later in the game, the person from whom the gift was stolen would have the option to select a new gift from the center or steal from another person (again, cannot steal his original gift back). The cycle continues until all presents have been unwrapped. White Elephant swaps are a fun, easy, and affordable way to get everyone involved. If you have questions about the rules, leave us a comment at the bottom 🙂

Secret Santa – Set a dollar and time limit (last year we did $5 per day for 4 days). Have all participants fill out a form that lists their general likes/dislikes, candy/food preferences, interests, favorite coffee places, and any other information you think would be beneficial. Then fold up the forms, put them in a bowl, and have each person draw one (make sure you don’t draw your own name!). Designate a spot in the office as a “gift drop-off” – can be cubbies, lockers, last year we set up stockings to really get in the holiday spirit J Then you read over the form of the person you selected, and buy them a little happy for each day of Secret Santa. Sometimes it helps to have themed days – spa day (loofa and fun-smelling soap), movie day (funny movie from the $5 bin & popcorn), candy day (all their favorite candies). Have fun with it, be creative and make your own rules/modifications! The goal is to not let anyone know who you have for Secret Santa, and to figure out who has you. On the last day, have everyone come together and reveal who they had.

The key to office gift giving is to not make anyone feel pressured to participate. If it is all in good fun, then there should not be any issues. At Conexess, we love getting into the holiday spirit and have done both Secret Santa and a White Elephant Exchange. For our office, it seems to be easier to do a White Elephant Exchange because it is not as big of a time commitment. Every office environment is different, so do whatever works best for you and enjoy the holiday season!

^^Our successful White Elephant gift exchange^^

Team Building in the Office

happy hour

Team building. Ice breakers. More than 40 hours a week spent with co-workers. To some, any of those three would bring on a reflexive headache worse than the most painful of migraines; and the thought of combining the three into a collaborative activity sounds like a nightmare waiting to happen. To the people who think that way, I say – you’re wrong! You’ve been misinformed, tricked, fooled into believing that team building is a hassle and a waste of your time, when in fact, it is a critical component when creating a cohesive office environment.

Here at Conexess, a significant amount of emphasis is placed on team building in order to achieve a more familial atmosphere. The crazy thing is that the more team building we do, the more everyone seems to enjoy it, and the closer we all become. Last week, there was a spontaneous gathering in our “pit” area with everyone swapping relationship stories, anecdotes, and advice. I overheard one of my coworkers comment “I love our family time discussions.” Even without years of experience in the workplace, I know that the bonds we have at Conexess are uncommon to say the least. The reasoning behind our closeness is simple:

  • Being a culture fit is a pre requisite to working at Conexess, which means that we all get along on a general level to begin with.
  • Team building activities are built into our annual calendar to ensure that our connections with one another go beyond the walls of the office.

WHY

Let’s go over a few of the basics: why team build? Because even in a sales-oriented workplace, you cannot rely on yourself alone to be successful – you need teammates. Team building exercises build trust, a crucial element of working cohesively with others. They also promote unity within a company, and can be FUN if you know what you’re doing.

WHEN

At Conexess, we plan quarterly bonding activities that correspond with the time of year and type of quarterly contest we have running in the office. Quarterly activities are fun to plan because there is always a holiday/event that can be tied in with the theme of the team bonding. For example: 1st quarter – Valentine’s Day, Super Bowl, March Madness; 2nd Quarter – Memorial Day, Summer kickoff; 3rd Quarter – 4th of July, Labor Day; 4th Quarter – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah. The 4th quarter is an all-star grouping of months, and we like to take advantage of that. Rather than have one big blowout activity, we’ll carve pumpkins for Halloween, have a potluck lunch for Thanksgiving, and a Christmas/holiday party in December.

christmas sillyUSA

In addition to having quarterly team building, we also have annual retreats that last 2-3 days. They focus on brainstorming ideas for the upcoming year, and bring all of our offices (Nashville, Detroit, and Orlando) together for some time of fun and relaxation. Our retreats typically happen in the summer months because we love to be outside. A quick tip is to have a retreat at the same time of year, every year. That way, employees can plan around the retreat, and look forward to it each year.

Birthdays, anniversaries, and milestones are also a great excuse for a small celebration with the team. At Conexess, we like to gather as a team and enjoy a sweet treat to celebrate those occasions.

barile bday

Another EASY way to bond your team is to go to happy hour together! Any day of the week will do, but Thursdays and Fridays tend to have the best response rate…especially if you get out of the office a little early :-). Here is a link to the best daily happy hours in Nashville: http://nashvilleguru.com/best-nashville-happy-hours-and-specials, and in the words of my dear friend, Jimmy Buffett, “it’s 5:00 somewhere.”

WHAT

Since repeating the same activities can be mundane, we try to shake things up when it comes to team building. For the first quarter of 2014 we had a “progressive lunch” where everyone was broken up into groups and assigned a meal course to contribute. After eating, we played board games and went to an early happy hour. The lunch/game combo was great because it got everybody involved, and it didn’t cost Conexess a dime! We went on our annual retreat during the second quarter, which involved a trip to a cabin in Kentucky and time in the sun on a boat…success. Sometimes all it takes to bond a group of people together is getting away from the office for a few days. In that regard, company retreats have been an excellent source of team building for us. Third quarter team building took place on The Redneck Bus Tour, a local attraction that allows guests to bring a cooler with “adult beverages” on board, and takes them on a driving tour of Nashville hot spots. Other team building activities that we have done and recommend are: attend a Nashville Sounds game, attend a Nashville Predators game, go to a pottery studio, have a pumpkin carving contest, take a ride on the Nashville Pedal Tavern, or throw a holiday party (4th of July, Halloween, Christmas). It is always a great idea to support local businesses while team building at the same time!

pedal tavernQ3 Kickoff 014ladies night18

WHO

Ideally, team building activities should include the entire office. However, in larger companies that may be unrealistic. We break up our office in several different ways to team-build throughout the year. The quarterly activities always include everyone at Conexess. Annual retreats are divided into two groupings – one for the operations staff, and one for the rest of the team. Within our sales team, there are smaller groups that work together on a daily basis, and they occasionally have team building exercises on their own. Make sure that everyone in your office is included in a team building exercise in some capacity, leaving someone out unintentionally is a careless mistake that can lead to needlessly burning bridges.

Team building encourages unity within an office, and builds trust through fun and oftentimes, low-cost, methods. When planning a team building activity, it is important to consider when you want to have it, what you want to do, and who you want to be involved. Any budget or timeline can be used, as long as the team is spending time together, getting to know one another on a deeper level outside of the office. Best of luck with your team building endeavors! If you have questions, please leave them in the comments section below.

group pic