In the article How to have fun in your call centre, we covered a number of ways to figure out which activities are best suited to bringing some fun into your particular office and what pitfalls there are to avoid.
Here are seven ideas that require barely any planning or expenditure but which can still raise a smile and help your team to relax.
If you haven’t got the time or money to be arranging theme days or competition prizes, then it’s best to keep it simple.
Blu-Tack Sculpture Contest
Working in a call centre does not yield many opportunities to embrace one’s creative side. In customer service, though, complex problems often demand creative solutions, so it pays to keep this particular part of the brain from kicking back and putting its feet up.
Blu-Tack sculpture is certainly a cheap way to do this as most offices have tons of it lying around anyway. It’s also a little bit childish – it’s basically the same as playing with Play-Doh as a kid – and thus invokes a touch of playful nostalgia that always makes for a happier atmosphere.
For those that like to be competitive about it, the scoring is very simple – snakes, dice and pyramids score low. Dragons, astronauts and Eiffel Towers score high.
Brain Teasers, Riddles and Puzzles
In the same way that Blu-Tack sculpture can keep your creative neurons firing, little puzzles and riddles can keep your brain alive to lateral thinking. If you’re in charge of a team that are handling call after call of roughly the same kinds of enquiries, then there’s a danger of them slipping into that joyless ‘autopilot’ mode that customers are always so quick to perceive. When this happens, anything that is both fun and engages the brain is always welcome.
If an email suddenly pops up, asking nothing more than “what travels the world, despite staying in one corner?”* or something similar, then this will at least break up the flow of repetitive and easily answered questions.
There are thousands of little puzzles and riddles online and it only takes a couple of minutes to compile a few and email them around the office. This kind of thing is not for everyone, though; some will read it once, think “no idea” and never give it another thought. On the other hand, some people will obsess over it for the rest of the day and will put their fingers in their ears yelling “la-la-la-la-la!” if you try to tell them the answer.
Plenty of offices get covered with tinsel at Christmas, but it can be a good idea to embrace other times of the year, too – Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc..
The general look of a call centre doesn’t change much from day to day, so it’s worth embracing anything that breaks up the sense of one day merging indistinguishably into the next. Also, most offices are not inherently colourful, which does have subtle effects on moods and emotions, so jazzing it up once in a while can only help.
With anything that requires a bit of light labour, it’s important to share the work around. If Steve has spent all morning on the phones while Amy has been hanging fairy lights and baubles for three hours, he’s probably feeling a bit put-out.
Good Turn Tuesday
It would be nice to think that everyone is always on the lookout for nice things they can do for others, but when you’re tied to your desk by a headset for most of the day it’s usually difficult. For this reason, acts of kindness tend to happen in little domino-effect sequences – If Paula has just sacrificed one of her days off so that Dave can have his kid’s birthday off, then Dave is probably more open to taking a look at Mike’s broken brake lights before he goes home that day.
If you have a tradition of using one particular day of the week to ask little or large favours of each other as a group (by email or in a meeting) then generosity seems to circulate more quickly.
Over time you start to get something of a credit/debit system, as opposed to ‘owing a favour’ to one particular colleague. So if you’re always willing to put yourself out for others then the boomerang of kindness will always come back to you when it is most needed, and from any direction.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a Tuesday, but ‘Good Turn Wednesday’ is less catchy.
Tacky Tie Friday
Despite the name, Tacky Tie Friday doesn’t have to be gender exclusive. It’s easy enough to extend the theme to allow for one tasteless novelty item of office-wear per employee, be they male or female. It could be a tie, a belt, jewellery, or anything.
It’s worth doing because it allows people to show a bit of extra personality under the guise of supposedly poor taste.
Everyone in the office may well think that Dave’s tie is a hilariously awful crime against fashion just because it has the Skywalker family tree on it, or a vertical chronology of NASA space missions. Dave doesn’t think his tie is awful, though – he loves it. But he will play along and enjoy the chance to wear something baring a piece of his personality that would normally be hidden behind his generic business attire.
Much like the Blu-Tack sculpture, Tacky Tie Friday creates a legitimate excuse to embrace one’s childish side at work, which elevates it above the standard ‘dress-down’ day as a way of lightening the office mood.
Just because tacky ties are a slightly more gleeful alternative, doesn’t mean that dress-down days aren’t still a good idea. It makes everyone a bit more comfortable, a bit less formal and usually a bit more relaxed. For these reasons, dress-down days are best utilised for those times when torrential call volumes are not expected.
Cakes make people happier – this is not news.
If there are enough people in the office that enjoy baking then it’s fairly easy to get a tableful of assorted desserts to snack on throughout the day and to sell for minimal prices to people elsewhere in the building.
Just a few quick emails to other offices will drum up business and then your whole team can take turns on ‘cake duty’, which is as appealing a duty as any.
Aside from the obvious sugar rush, an office cake sale can raise a bit of money for a local charity and introduce people to other employees they wouldn’t normally cross paths with. Remember, though, that this is one activity that requires people to commit their time outside of work, so it’s not really fair to make it mandatory.
There are many other little games and events that can achieve exactly the same thing, but the ones listed above are among the simplest and least expensive. As with everything, it pays to know your team as well as possible so that you can deduce which ideas will be the most effective in raising their spirits.
Matt Phil Carver is a regular contributor to Call Centre Helper.
* the answer to the riddle was a postage stamp