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A Surprising Key to Improve Employee Communication: Go Bowling!

February 26 2018 / by Mari Ryan

66143959_ml.jpgI have fond childhood memories of bowling. It was a fun thing to do on a cold, wintry weekend. In New England, we have candlepin bowling, so regardless of age or skill level you could still participate and still have fun.

For a period of time now, I’ve been conducting interviews with CEOs to learn about what they do to create a culture that supports employee wellbeing. In one of these conversations, the CEO of a small pharmaceutical company described a multifaceted approach to working hard to reach their goals, but not so hard that everyone is burned out. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:

“When I talk to people about this [shaping the culture of the organization], there are two things I emphasize. One, everybody in the 430-person organization knows what our goal is, and so it’s crystal clear. Two, those that are here have to communicate because we are a research-based company and we run into problems every day. That’s the nature of our science-based business. We hire people who have the capability of identifying problems that go wrong, because if you don’t identify your problems you are in big trouble. Through communication with their colleagues they can figure out ways to fix what has gone wrong. We do that quite well. We bring in people with a broad range of experiences and we do whatever we can to keep them talking to each other, with just silly things.  Like every Friday at five minutes to twelve, we go out and populate a bowling alley with 150 people. We play a couple of games of bowling against each other, competitively for an hour and a half. So employees meet new people every Friday. They have three-person teams and they all seem to like doing that. So over a 12-week period, they have met about 20, 30, 40 other people in the company that they might not have ever met. It helps because we’re in a relatively confined area, but we are in four buildings separated by a couple of blocks, a mile or two, but it’s the only way to get everybody together.”

What does this say about this organization? They have a clear vision of their purpose, work hard, and yet they don’t take themselves so seriously that they don’t make time to play. This approach to building a culture that thrives on communication and problem solving, also gives employees the opportunity to get to know each other in a social setting that is not deadline or task driven. 

In their book Wellbeing, authors Tom Rath and Jim Hartner identified social connections as one of five core elements of wellbeing. They write: “When we get at least six hours of daily social time, it increases our wellbeing and minimizes stress and worry.” Social time is defined as time at work, home, on the phone, talking to friends, email and other communications.  Scientists are showing the relationship between social connections, healthy relationships, and health.

What’s your organization doing to create social situations that foster collegiality and fun?

Topics: Worksite Wellness, Wellbeing, Community, workplace wellbeing, leadership, ceo, leading wellbeing, employee wellness, worksite well-being, creative leadership, mental health, employee benefits, health program, laura putnam, leaders, employee engagement, intrinsic motivation, managers and wellbeing, healthy workplace, employee performance, communication, employee camaraderie

Mari Ryan

Written by Mari Ryan

Mari Ryan is the CEO/founder of AdvancingWellness and is a recognized expert in the field of workplace well-being strategy.