Rituals for Work: 5 Ways To Improve Team Performance

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 8, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Bonding with your employees can help motivate them and encourage your entire department. Workplace rituals are habits that help and reward employees in different ways, from welcoming them as new hires to celebrating their birthdays. Understanding workplace rituals can help you decide how to engage with your department and boost office morale. In this article, we explain the definition of workplace rituals, review their benefits and give examples of what kinds of rituals you can use in your department.

What are workplace rituals?

Workplace rituals are various habits departments practice to strengthen workplace bonds. Rituals can be various team-wide practices, such as welcoming a new team member to the office to get to know them better or a short briefing before a meeting ends to help employees learn. Rituals usually help shape a workplace's culture to promote friendly, transparent employee interaction.

Usually, rituals align with the company's goal or mission. For example, if one of the company's values is to improve constantly, a ritual they could have is occasionally hosting department lunches that include business discussions where all employees can learn new skills. Workplace rituals can affect both the company culture and the perception each employee has of the company.

Related: Guide To People Management: Definition, Tips and Skills

Benefits of workplace rituals

Some benefits of workplace rituals include:

Celebrating success in the workplace

Some workplace rituals, such as employee of the month, milestone celebrations or performance-based rituals, can help motivate a workplace to achieve and celebrate goals. For example, when a department reaches a quota on time, celebrating with a department-wide lunch or drinks can help employees bond over their success together. Performance-based workplace rituals can help assign credit and give employees a small break after working toward a collective goal.

Celebratory rituals can be as detailed as a party for a milestone or as simple as a mass email. Celebratory rituals can also be cost efficient. For example, a department may have an email sent out each time an employee receives a high rating on a project. If a department collectively reaches a milestone before the deadline, managers can publicly mark it on a shared calendar with a note commending a job well done.

Related: How To Be a Good Manager

Promoting employee learning

Managers can also use work rituals to promote employee learning in the workplace. For example, when completing a milestone, managers could hold a meeting involving all employees where they discuss how the project affects the entire organization, along with a question-and-answer session. This can help every employee improve, no matter their role in the project or place in the company.

Many companies want constant learning and improvement to be a part of their culture. Holding a lunch with a guest speaker who answers questions concerning relevant skills in your department can help you continuously grow and learn. Additionally, company-offered training programs can help employees keep growing in their experience and the knowledge they bring to the department.

Another effective employee ritual is replacing performance evaluations with coaching activities. This helps the manager learn by coaching and the employee learn through coaching rather than simply evaluating the employee's progress.

Building employee relationships

Company rituals can help build employee relationships, especially ones that are creative and personal. For example, to celebrate a major project being finished, a manager may organize a bowling event on a Friday evening, inviting the entire department with free entry. When attending events outside the workplace, employees can see each other as more than simply coworkers and relate to each other on a personal level.

Even a monthly happy hour in the break room can help employees get to know each other better or encourage new employees to reach out and form relationships with their peers. Other examples of out-of-office activities are participating in escape rooms, going to a movie theater or seeing plays. These activities allow employees to communicate outside of work, experience fun events together and get to know each other.

Encouraging leadership

Some department rituals promote self-management and leadership skills. For example, a manager may ask employees to assign themselves a quota for a specific period. They can then both evaluate whether the quota worked for the employee and what they can do to improve it. This kind of ritual helps employees gain leadership skills and share accountability in departmental progress and workload. Employees who set their own goals may find more inspiration to meet those goals.

Helping focus on the individual

Rituals can help employees and managers keep a focus on the individual and relate to personal matters in the department. This can mean anything from acknowledging employee work improvement to announcing an employee's achievements publically.

Another personal ritual a manager might have is acknowledging special moments in an employee's life, such as becoming engaged or having a child. Personal rituals show the employee their department and/or company cares about them. These rituals can also be relatively inexpensive. Sending them a cake for their birthday or flowers for an anniversary are small gestures a manager can take to show an employee gratitude and encourage them.

List of workplace rituals you can try for your company

If you are thinking of starting some department rituals, consider some of the following examples:

Food-related rituals

Department rituals such as lunches or break-room activities can promote conversation between employees. Additionally, food-based rituals can give employees a break at the office and more opportunities to interact with coworkers and managers. Some food-related rituals to consider are:

  • Department-wide lunches celebrating a milestone accomplishment

  • Department-wide dinners celebrating a company anniversary

  • Holiday-related department dinners

  • Holiday break-room drinks offered around lunch

  • Surprise gift cards for local restaurants or coffee shops

Related: The Best Ways for Coaching an Employee in the Workplace

Out-of-office rituals

Some rituals are more effective by being out of the office. Out-of-office rituals allow employees to talk under different circumstances, about different subjects and with different goals in mind. These rituals can happen during a weekend or on an evening after work and usually involve an event all department members can do. Out-of-office rituals allow employees to express themselves in other ways and through other activities. Some out-of-office celebratory ritual examples can be:

  • Department-wide movie events, at a theater or manager's home

  • Indoor rock wall climbing

  • Minigolf

  • Bowling

  • Escape rooms

  • Comedy shows

  • Plays

Deadline-related rituals

Some work rituals help celebrate daily, monthly or quarterly deadlines. They can be as small as an announcement or as large as an evening dinner. Deadline-related rituals help make employees feel appreciated for the work they've done, while also encouraging employees to meet deadlines consistently in the future. Some examples of deadline-related rituals include:

  • Creative daily quota-reaching notifications, such as ringing a small bell

  • Friendly employee contests for fulfilling quotas

  • Custom announcements or emails sent to all department members announcing a job well done

Related: 5 Aspects of Good Employee Management

Guest speaker rituals

Rituals that involve guest speakers can help employees continuously build knowledge and expertise in their fields of work. Some examples of guest speaker rituals are:

  • Guest speaker dinners

  • Department-covered guest speaking events outside of the workplace

  • Guest speakers who attend meetings concerning workplace safety or other required meetings

Goodwill rituals

There are many rituals a manager can host to make their employees feel appreciated. Some can be small gestures, others can be as large as fully hosted events. Either way, employees can remember even the smallest gestures of goodwill, and organizing these can help make employees feel appreciated. Examples of some goodwill gestures are:

  • Hosting a small welcoming party for an employee in the break room during their first day

  • Sending gifts to an employee's home in celebration of a personal event

  • Giving gifts to employees leaving the company

Tips for using workplace rituals

When planning workplace rituals for your department, consider the following tips:

Plan rituals with the employee in mind

Managers build some of the best department rituals with the employee in mind. For example, rituals that welcome new employees to the office can make them feel appreciated and may help their first week go more smoothly.

Employee coaching, for example, emphasizes improvement rather than meeting a deadline. Choosing to focus your rituals on employee benefit rather than immediate departmental benefit may help the department reach more goals with greater efficiency. Employees who feel appreciated and welcomed in their department may be more productive under a department that appreciates them.

Plan rituals sparingly

An important aspect of ritual planning is the idea that rituals are special events, not everyday occurrences. For example, if your department hosts a break room party at the end of every workday, they may become too normalized to remain effective.

Rarely held rituals may affect employees more personally than common events. For example, having a department dinner in response to meeting an important deadline may be more effective than having the same dinner after a weekly deadline. Consider isolating certain rituals to specific happenings. For example, if you give a gift to an employee on their wedding anniversary, consider hosting a small party for an employee for their work anniversary.

Budget your ritual activities

Ritual activities vary in price, and can sometimes be expensive. However, good rituals can be cost-effective. For example, assume you have a small quality assurance department that has just reached an important deadline for your quarter, resulting in a new building addition of the company being completed.

You decide to celebrate with a ritual of inviting everyone to a department-covered dinner that evening. In contrast, another option you could consider is inviting every department member to the grand opening of that building addition, which is free for all to attend. Consider what budget you can spend when planning your rituals and what impact each ritual may have on your employees.

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