In order to create a highly productive workplace, employees need to understand each other’s personal and professional challenges. From team conflict to inter-departmental squabbles, an office’s working environment can become sour or caustic without some team building exercises. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on day-long retreats, start with something small — lunch.
Work with a local catering company to create a menu of items that employees can have during a sponsored lunch event. (In California, you’ll still have to give the employees a break with no restrictions if you plan on requiring them to attend a team-building lunch event.) Because of cultural and culinary diversity, you may have to take individual orders to ensure everyone has a lunch of his or her choosing.
Team building lunch events can be as simple as watching a video. Although not all of your employees will see the point of such a simple activity, everyone needs time away from his or her desk in order to approach problems with a fresh perspective. You can also ask a speaker to come in to talk about anything from yoga techniques to healthy cooking.
The best way to create progressive change is to schedule these lunches as an on-going program. For example, you could offer a free lunch on Mondays for six weeks. This will give the team something to look forward to on a regular basis. You can also work with a team-building consultant to turn the Monday lunches into a productive series.
If you have several departments, consider hiring a caterer to host a lunch for each department on different days of the week. Then, when you (or the team-building consultant) decide to focus on cross-departmental work, you can have one week of mixed teams sharing lunch.