Happy hours. Traditionally, they’ve been a time for coworkers to kick back, converse, and do a little cathartic commiserating. But for employees who’ve struggled with alcohol or who are teetotalers, these events are hardly rewarding.
In other words, it’s time to shake up your team building instead of your martinis.
If you think that offering zero-proof gatherings for your team isn’t important, think again. A recent study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis revealed how widespread alcohol abuse is among professionals. The study suggests that nearly one in 10 employees may be dealing with alcohol abuse disorder. For those people, attending a workplace-sponsored event designed around drinking could be personally and occupationally disastrous.
As noted by treatment center Pathways, there’s a distinct correlation between mental health and alcohol abuse. As alcohol usage grows, mental wellness plummets. And those with alcohol-connected waning mental health frequently turn to alcohol to cope. This cycle ultimately leads to a downward spiral that affects every aspect of their lives from on-the-job productivity to interpersonal relationships. For example, Pathways explains it’s not unusual for people with alcohol abuse issues to be unable to complete their responsibilities or communicate effectively. You certainly don’t want that for them — or your company.
Of course, you can’t always know who on your payroll might be actively abusing alcohol, in treatment, or recovering. That’s why you should always provide some alcohol-free team experiences. You don’t have to necessarily get rid of happy hours, but make sure they’re not your only team bonding opportunities. Below are a few happy hour alternatives to try that will promote camaraderie while being sensitive to the needs of each participant.
1. Add time for shoutouts during your regular meetings.
Want your workers to feel more connected? Giving and receiving praise can be a winning strategy. Everyone appreciates when their good work is noticed, particularly by their teammates and bosses. A Gallup poll cited by CNBC showed that almost three-quarters of employees felt that recognition reduced their risk of burnout. Sadly, under 20% of organizations make worker praise a priority.
You can buck this trend by adopting a philosophy that any get-together is a time for giving kudos. For instance, if you have a standing staff meeting, kick it off by asking attendees to give positive feedback to each other. Just five minutes of verbal (or physical) high-fives is all you need. In time, these micro team-building moments will help people become more comfortable sharing. Just make certain that any recognition given is specific so it has merit and value.
2. Host lunch and learn sessions.
Professional development has arisen as one of the most desired employee benefits. In one survey, 68% of workers said they’d be more loyal to their employer if the employer upskilled them. With this in mind, why not arrange for some lunch and learn sessions? Though the lunch and learn isn’t a new way to team-build, it can work for your modern company. Plus, lunch and learns can be ideal for in-office, hybrid, and remote workplaces.
The secret to making your lunch and learns effective is to pick topics that engage everyone. To make topic selection easier, ask for ideas through a survey. Find out what your people want to know more about and then deliver those subjects. Remember that your lunch and learn meetings don’t all have to be centered around corporate topics. It’s fine to toss in something more lighthearted once in a while so everyone can just have a good time.
3. Dive into volunteer work.
There’s just something powerful about volunteering alongside your work associates. Not only are you helping a charity fulfill its mission, but you’re seeing each other in a different forum. When you’re volunteers, you’re peers. As a result, “title barriers” are immediately broken, along with expectations of who should take charge. Let’s face it: In a volunteer situation, the CEO has no more clout than anyone else.
Not ready to embark on a formal volunteer program throughout your business? That’s fine. Even if you just pay your team to volunteer once or twice a year, you’ll be moving in the right direction. Be sure to take plenty of pics of your volunteering activities to share via internal communications as well as on your social media.
4. Host hackathon sprints.
Workdays can sometimes feel more like scenes from “Groundhog Day.” To break free from the same old things, institute occasional hackathon sprints. Hackathons are fast-paced, intensive brainstorming experiences aimed at solving problems or innovating radically. They’re also terrific team-bonding vehicles.
For your first half-day or full-day hackathon, issue a challenge to each team. Give teams the chance and resources to tackle the challenge. Afterward, bring everyone together to share their concepts. Hackathons can produce a flurry of energy and cement your culture as dynamic and creative.
Happy hours can seem like the simplest ways to get employees to let their hair down. Yet many people can’t, shouldn’t, or don’t want to attend team bonding events that include alcohol. To accommodate them, make team excursions and events more accessible to all by going zero-proof.