I recently had someone ask me about the “appropriateness” of celebrating some of the offbeat theme days I refer to from time to time in an office setting. So allow me to clarify a few of my thoughts on the matter.
I share the theme days first and foremost simply as a way of sharing a little humor with the world. I, for one, enjoy knowing that in this crazy, stressed out, hyperactive, dog-eat-dingo world that someone, somewhere out there has created or is celebrating a theme day such as “International Talk Like a Pirate Day”, “Recess at Work Day,” “Wear Two Different Colored Shoes Day” or “Answer Your Cat’s Question Day.” Unless you’re humorously-challenged, I’m not sure how a person couldn’t smile at the thought of some of those days.
And of course, as I constantly stress, celebrating some of these theme days or creating your own fun theme days isn’t going to magically transform your workplace. Ideas such as these can easily come across as window dressing and gimmicky if they aren’t done correctly and if they aren’t done within the context of a culture where people feel trusted, respected, and supported and where people are doing their jobs successfully! Remember, fun ideas can create a more positive workplace, but perhaps even more importantly, they REFLECT a positive workplace and they reflect the notion that people are enjoying themselves at work.
And of COURSE people doing their work professionally and effectively is paramount in any organization. But I shake my head at folks who still don’t get it!
It’s not always a choice for fun OR work, but a choice for fun AND work.
When you look at what makes a successful workplace culture, when you review the academic literature, when your read the surveys about what people want and don’t want from their work, and truly understand what makes people want to stay with an organization, and what drives creative thinking at work, and then you look at the costs associated with employee absenteeism rates, employee turnover rates, stress at work, poor customer service and the costs associated with a LACK of creativity and innovation at work, then it becomes clear that far too many managers and far too many workplaces are stuck with an outdated paradigm of what the workplace is supposed to be and that a little more fun, a bit more humor, and loads more creativity is definitely what the workplace doctor ordered. Assuming you want to be more successful that is.
And there are dozens of stories around the globe each month of organizations who garner millions of dollars worth of free advertising simply by doing something a little different, outrageous or wacky. Celebrating a fun theme day in an outlandish way is another way to help your company stand out from the herd to be herd!
When I’ve interviewed senior leaders or CEOs in companies such as Zappos, Beryl Call Centers or Southwest Airlines, all known for their positive culture and use of humor at work, they all, to a tee, shake their heads in disbelief at the notion that leaders worry that if you allow a little fun into their workplace that somehow the gates of anarchy will swing open and all hell will break loose.
It just doesn’t happen. At least not in workplaces that actually do this stuff.
Now, having said/ranted all that….of course people should be expected to use a little common sense, and, amazingly enough, when you treat people like adults, they typically show common sense.
Let’s, for example, take a more outlandish theme day such as, “No Pants Day.” Now when I suggest a workplace celebrate No Pants Day, do you honestly think I’m suggesting Joe, your jovial security guard show up at your corporate sky rise wearing only a thong?
Of course not.
But let’s brainstorm what you could do…so how about…
1. Post the wacky theme day on a whiteboard somewhere at the office entrance. A friendly “Happy Thursday and Happy No Pants Day!” would surely put a few smiles on a least a few faces (actually I know it does because I know several offices who do just that).
2. Kick off or end that presentation you’re delivering with a reference to No Pants Day as a way of breaking the ice and injecting a little humor into your talk.
3. Mention whatever theme day it happens to be as a ritual to launch your team meetings with. A simple, easy ice breaker even the most humor-challenged leader can do.
4. Include a mention in your company-wide or personal voice mail message as a way of humanizing and adding a bit of humor to your image.
5. Add mention of No Pants Day to your e-mail signature file or on your e-mail messages.
6. Hold a “No Pants” luncheon, where people are encouraged to wear Bermuda Shorts or Kilts to the luncheon and someone wins a prize for the most outrageous costume.
7. Use the day to support a local charity, as you are reminded of the many people and families in need in your community and so you encourage everyone to bring in a pair of pants they no longer need and make a donation to a shelter or thrift shop. You contact your local media and get some great free press coverage, it becomes a team building event and employees get to feel good about doing something worthwhile.
8. Shoot a fun photo of your team all wearing boxer shorts and post it on a wall as a way to add a little fun to the office.
9. Get the senior leadership team to pose for charity without their pants which at the same time sends the ridiculously invaluable message that they don’t take themselves too seriously and that underneath it all they are just regular human beings like everyone else.
10. Use the theme day (in this case No Pants Day) as a brainstorming tool to force some lateral, horizontal connections for whatever topic you need to brainstorm.
11. Use No Pants Day as an excuse for a once a year SUPER Casual Friday where everybody gets to as casual as they feel like…within reason.
12. Tie the theme day into a customer promotion. So with the No Pants theme day you might offer your customers 20% off the price of “X” if they come into your store not wearing any pants or donate a pair of pants. Or you offer a prize for the wackiest boxer shorts. Or you use it an excuse to “undercut’ prices to “expose” the great value you are offering!
13. Use “No Pants Day” as an excuse to raise money to support research into cancers such as prostate, colo-rectal, ovarian, bladder, cervical and testicular, all cancers that are covered by underwear. Calgary, Alberta hosts an annual “Underwear Affair” to do just that, where participants hit the streets dressed only in their underwear. (Now wouldn’t it be sad if your organization was “too professional” to get behind something like this?!)
14. Hold a “No Pants” picnic and croquet tournament after work, as they do in Red Deer, Alberta, to celebrate the day.
15. Hold a special event at a restaurant where you turn the old “No Pants, No Service Sign” on its head and use it as a fun way to raise money for a charity. Maybe with a sign that says, “No pants? GREAT Service!”
16. Use No Pants Day as an excuse to hold a fashion show (as some workplaces have done) highlighting appropriate and inappropriate safety wear attire.
17. Make a fun wager with a competitor or another department or another colleague and the loser has to wear no pants on No Pants Day, again to raise awareness or funds for charity.
18. Hold an after-dinner barbecue at your office with a NO Pants theme, encouraging people to wear kilts, grass skirts or boxer shorts or Bermuda shorts.
19. Hold a contest with your employees and or customers for the most “creative reason why they aren’t wearing any pants today” and they win a gift certificate to a local clothing store.
20. Hold a “The Emperor has No Clothes” contest and use the the No Pants theme as a way of introducing a discussion on controversial topics in your workplace that no one is speaking about out loud.
21. Similar to the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” Campaign which has men walking in high heels to raise awareness around sexual assault and gender violence, encourage everyone, including the men, to wear a skirt to work as way to raise issues around gender equality in the workplace or to support this important, award-winning international campaign.
22. Actually encourage everyone who wants to participate in NO Pants Day to simply come into work wearing no pants, for no other reason than it’s fun! And because life is too damn short to take ourselves too seriously!
So there you go. 22 ideas I came up with in about 10 minutes to celebrate just one of those theme days. With a little creativity and a little humor, ANY theme day can be put to work to help breathe some life into your workplace or to help you stand out from the herd to be heard.
For great ideas with a bit of fun and inspiration tossed into the mix, be sure to sign up for Mike’s raved about weekly e-zine, Humor at Work.
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