4 Ways to Turn Your Office into a Family

By Nicole Ehnle, Business Development Associate

If you’ve ever worked in an office, you know that it can be a challenge for everyone to get along—which is probably true of everyone you spend 8 to 9 hours a day with… including especially your family. So what is it that makes families work? In theory, if we can figure out what those commonalities are and apply them in the office, we should all be able to live and work in harmony.

1. Build a Community of Mutual Need & Support

What is a family if not a group of people, working towards a common goal, who are mutually willing to help each other out in times of need? On the most basic level, this is why humans need each other. “At Keystone, mutual support is a big part of the foundation of our company culture,” says Donna Ervast, President of Keystone Corporate Services. “Our employees know if anything goes wrong, we are always there to help.”

How we do it:

On a couple of occasions, we have had employees need to take a substantial amount of time off due to illness. Both times, a PTO pool was started in which employees could donate their hours to the employee in need and the company would match them hour for hour. Since then, the company has implemented a policy that any PTO that is forfeited at the end of the year goes into this donation pool for any future employees in need.

Keystone also offers other financial safeguards such as an FSA and HRA to assist employees with increasing healthcare costs.

While this community of mutual need and support must begin as a company standard, it can exist on the smallest level by employees simply being willing to help out with tasks that fall outside of our job description. For example, as Business Development Associate, I am primarily responsible for supporting the BD team and managing our online marketing. But I also help out with the payroll department every month.

On the other hand, I am often responsible for printing sales presentations for last-minute hospital meetings. Usually on days when I go to print, I am stuck at the office late, trying to get them out the door before the FedEx drop-off deadline. Stephanie, our Office Administrator, always offers to help me. As a result, we can bond over the work and finish up an hour earlier than I would have alone. And she knows that I will return the favor when she is facing a similar time crunch.

2. Eat Together

It’s pretty well-known that food is a big part of creating community. Breaking bread together is one of the best ways to get people to drop their guards and feel comfortable, but it doesn’t have to be limited to your annual holiday party.

How we do it:

Every Monday in the Tampa office (Friday in the Memphis office), we take turns choosing where to order from and, barring any meetings or disruptions, we eat together. We’ve found it’s a great way for us to relax and get to know each other, even in the middle of the workday. Michelle, our Accounting Specialist, or as we like to call her, our Head Chef, often makes lunch for everyone on Tuesdays. For the rest of the week we fend for ourselves but some go above and beyond and eat lunch together almost every day.

Our office family probably eats lunch together more often than we sit down to dinner with our home families!

3. Cook Together

This is the point where you might start thinking that I am obsessed with food (you’re not wrong), but hear me out.

While many teams eat lunch, grab an after-work drink or treat clients to dinner, preparing food together is much less common. But what could be a better team-building activity than cooking food together and then enjoying it together?

How we do it:

In 2017 our Tampa office started a tradition of an annual holiday cookie baking day. We each choose one or two of our own recipes (or ones we found online), spend one Saturday in December baking as many holiday cookies as we can and then we package them up and mail them to our other offices. It’s only a few hours one day a year, but it’s a chance for us to get together, down a few RumChata pudding shots, and exhaust ourselves mixing batters, covering ourselves with flour and baking hundreds of delicious cookies (using LEAN process, of course).

We also try to do a potluck at least once a year (usually for Halloween), and we even have a few boat-happy team members who go on a day-long fishing trip together once a year and bring back their catch for a Friday afternoon fish-fry.

4. Be a Democracy

Hierarchy has its uses, and we do have a solid management hierarchy here at Keystone (including a wonderfully supportive leadership team). But whenever possible, everyone in the office should feel like he or she has a voice.

How we do it:

Here in Tampa, we have a bi-weekly meeting that everyone in the office attends. This is not only a time for us to update each other on what is going on in different departments, but also for us to voice any random concerns and brainstorm solutions as a team. We talk about anything from building maintenance to volunteer opportunities to party planning to the lunch menu for the week, and everybody has the opportunity to speak up. Granted, we only have seven people in our office family, but this can be (and is) done on a larger scale.

Bringing it All Together

Maybe one or more of these “keystones” (see what I did there?) is also missing from your household family. In the age of virtual assistants and precooked meals on the go, lots of families are spending more and more time apart. So don’t hesitate to implement these ideas both with your office family and your home family!