Letting people blow off some steam is the best way to help them regain focus, relax, and boost their productivity. Hosting a company happy hour is one of the best ways for you to get there.
The traditional meaning of happy hours (in the hospitality industry) is a period of the day when drinks are sold at reduced prices. On the other hand, company happy hour is a period of rest from work where employees are allowed alcoholic beverages (as a sort of a social lubricant).
As such, office happy hour boosts morale, it also helps people rest from work and allows them to socialize with their coworkers. Aside from strengthening team unity and boosting productivity, this practice also creates a more welcoming working environment. As such, it reduces talent abandonment.
Office happy hour needs to be scheduled carefully in order to give maximum effect. First of all, you need to keep in mind that you can’t follow the hospitality industry recipe and have a happy hour every day. First of all, you can’t afford to spare 2-3 work hours every day. On the other hand, 2-3 hours every week shouldn’t be that much of a problem.
The ideal day for this happy hour is Friday. First of all, it’s the end of the week, which means that people are probably already tired. Second, the weekend is upon them, which makes them less focused and dedicated. Chances are that employees in your Minnesotan office are already thinking about Minneapolis nightlife, which is why this office happy hour can also serve as a sort of a prelude to their wild weekend.
With this in mind, you need to be aware of the fact that announcing a happy hour might already affect the mindset and productivity of your employees.
So, even though (on paper) you’re sacrificing 2-3 hours, in terms of productivity, you’re really not losing that much. At the same time, you get all the benefits we’ve mentioned in the introduction. It’s a clear win-win scenario for your organization.
Another thing you need to consider is the issue of budgeting. Paying for drinks for all your staff is something you need to add to your budget, and it might not come cheap. The thing is that you don’t want to overspend, but you don’t want to come off as cheap either. Sure, you don’t have to go for the top shelf, but picking the most frugal beverages won’t portray you in the best life.
The choice of beverages also makes all the difference. Beer and wine are your safest bet. Shots, cocktails, and martinis are not… well, thematically appropriate or practical.
Also, keep in mind that it’s not just about the drinks. You should also make sure that there’s some food available. Ideally, you’re going for catering but just providing some basic snacks is better than completely overlooking this aspect of your corporate happy hour. The simplest solution would be to just look for local catering businesses (or a local food place that does local catering), and that’s it.
Try to Avoid Work Talk (But Not Too Hard)
Generally speaking, a lot of effort goes into making this formal affair… well, less formal. However, this is not always the best (or the healthiest) course of action. Remember that people attending this happy hour are work friends and work acquaintances – not private life liaisons. This means that the majority of their topics are work-related. Trying too hard to make them discuss private issues might leave them without a suitable conversation topic.
While it is true that the purpose of this event (or occasion) is to let them mingle and get outside of their regular work routine, it is important that they do so at their own pace and of their own volition. You can’t force people to engage in conversation. The best you can do is create suitable conditions and let them work it out amongst themselves.
As a leader, you need to live by a different set of rules than your employees. Sure, they want to see you without the mantle of the leader, but at the same time, fraternizing with your employees is usually not a good idea.
While this will result in a temporary morale boost, you might lose some of your authority. Also, if you become too good with someone (even if it just appears so from the outside), this might serve as a cause for future murmurs of bias and favoritism. Still, it is important that you go out of your way and talk to everyone (even if it’s just to greet them).
Being too flirtatious (which is something that you can do non-deliberately) can also become a huge problem. Hooking up at a work party is definitely not a good idea.
Now, keep in mind that informal ambiance might cause you to open too much about yourself or be too honest about the company’s situation (even some corporate secrets). There’s time and place for this kind of honesty, and company happy hour is definitely not the right setting.
In the end, you need to make sure that you gather feedback from all the attendees. The key thing to remember here is that this is not the last time you’re going to host a happy hour in your office. Therefore, you can use previous instances as a learning experience and keep improving.
Some events will be more successful than others, which won’t always be determined by your own organizational abilities. The key is that you figure out what you’re doing right and keep up the good work.
The biggest problem with office happy hours is that it’s not mandatory (or common) and that it doesn’t sound very… well, professional. This makes a lot of entrepreneurs and managers avoid the idea altogether without even giving it a shot. Still, this can become one of the best, most productive office traditions with a proper organization and the right game plan. All it takes is just a bit of research and effort.