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Solutions For More Community At Work? 205

Posted by timothy
from the buffet-followed-by-orgy dept.
CrunkCreeper writes "I work at a tier-2 hosting company (SAP, web servers, Citrix, databases, etc.). I started working at this location two years ago in January. The company had anywhere from 20-30 other employees, and now we are just over 100. People with all different IT experience are employed. At one end of the spectrum, you have accounting, billing, and sales. At the other end you have the help desk, analysts, and engineers. In the past we were hiring mainly people in their 20s, and now we're hiring more senior people in their 30s and 40s. Incidentally with our expanded demographic and recently aggressive hiring, people are not as familiar with each other as they used to be. This happens to some extent and will continue to happen more the larger our company grows, but I would like to curb the corporate feel a bit. I'm trying to bring family or community feel back to the company. The reason for this need is that great ideas are normally discussed in non-formal environments. Beside this fact, I want people to genuinely have more fun and decrease the sometimes uncomfortable discussions with 'that guy' from 'that department.' Being an IT company, I find it more natural for collaboration via computer, but welcome more traditional methods too. How does your company keep or build a community environment using technology?" Read on for some more on how it works at CrunkCreeper's workplace, and give suggestions for how to make things better.
" Here is what we currently use for collaboration, both formal and non-formal:

IRC — We have used a dedicated IRC server from the start, and it helps out tremendously when people use it (the Linux folks use it heavily), but it doesn't entice a vast majority of the employees. It's used mainly for BS'ing, but also becomes a very important tool when things are awry.

Facebook — Most people are on Facebook, but obviously there are details about the company that cannot be discussed, which is an issue since most of these profiles are public and it is a somewhat common practice to be friends with some clients.

Exchange 2007 — E-mail is the main source of communication, but can't it be painful sometimes? Everyone on the IT side receives alerts about tickets and other automated checks of systems. On any given day I generally receive 100+ alert messages. When we're not reading our filtered alerts into specified folders, general discussion about projects and fixing issues usually is anywhere from 20-60 messages a day. Quite honestly, I'm sick of e-mail and don't wish to get any more of it. I know a lot of you feel the same way.

Phone — Just using the ol' phone is the other primary way of communicating with the customer, but not ideal for communicating ideas with others at the same time. We have bridges, but they're only used for conferences with customers.

Company Meetings — We have these a few times a year. They're fully catered and consist of introducing the new people, talking about new contracts, and congratulating others on successful implementations . These generally last about an hour or so at the end of the workday. Unfortunately dedicating to these meetings is not the easiest on people's schedules, especially the help desk, and is not an open forum.

There are forms of collaboration that I have been thinking of. To list some, there is phpBB, Elgg, Jabber (discussed a few times before), and Google Wave (hard to push currently). Personally I think that a closed social networking platform would be ideal, where ideas can be posted and read at any time. Tell me what you think of these ideas, if there are more suitable solutions, or what you use at work."
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Solutions For More Community At Work?

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  • Its simple, (Score:5, Funny)

    by Stan92057 (737634) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @07:34PM (#30966466)
    Its simple,get a water cooler
    • by Skreems (598317)

      It's simple, get a kegerator

      Fixed that for you.

      Seriously though, there's nothing like alcohol for helping people get to know each other better, in a less formal setting.

    • by raehl (609729) <raehl311 AT yahoo DOT com> on Saturday January 30, 2010 @08:47PM (#30966960) Homepage

      You actually hit this nail on the head.

      The submitter entirely misses the point when he asks "How does your company keep or build a community environment using technology?"

      Answer: YOU DON'T!

      You build a community through SOCIAL ACTIVITY! That means get rid of as much technology as possible.

      There is no single answer here, as it's going to depend a lot on culture. One thing that will definitely not work in Utah is to stock beer in the fridges and on the occasional Friday afternoon have managers pull their groups into a free-beer (or beverage of choice) activity. Or twice a year blow a paid day and have everyone go somewhere as a company outing.

      No matter what you do, the most important part is LEAVE THE TECHNOLOGY IN THE CUBE!

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by No Lucifer (1620685)

        Right. Just elaborating further.... People generally kinda like other people. Assuming most of the employees are not asshats, friendships just form naturally. I was laid off from my firm of 5+ years last spring, and I still hang out a few times a week with friends from there. This works well across departments, too (I was in finance, my aforementioned friends are programmers and customer service reps). I think the best you can do is create an environment friendly to "banter" (i.e. not having a strict 30 min

      • For January this year most of the guys in IT grew full beards. Much to the dismay of our wifes and girl friends, it was a funny way to bond with our coworkers over the month.

        We also have a number of other cross-IT social activities, some of us play WoW together, others are on bowling, soccer, or volley ball leagues together, and we even have a few RPGers. Not everyone bonds with everyone, but we've got enough cross chatter that the teams are meshing really well. It is by far one of the best social atmospher

    • by Anrego (830717) *

      This got modded funny.. but you actually nailed it on the head!

      It's been my experience that "inner-office communication tools" generally don't get used.. or if they do.. it's because people are forced to use them.

      You're doing it backwards.. people seek out tools when they need to communicate.. they don't communicate because tools are provided.

      What you need is an area where people will tend to "bump into each other"..

      Like a water cooler.. or a kitchen.. or if you want to go extreme.. even a little room with

    • Its simple,get a water cooler

      Even better - hold friday afternoon beer parties. And the occasional company BBQ, and when times are good - take the company on a cruise. In fact you may not even need to wait for good times, cruises are dirt cheap now. Of course don't even think of charging the employees for these activities - that will build commuinity too - a community united in thinking just how stingy the company is.

    • We used to have 'breakdown' on Fridays. That's where we send someone around asking what you want, then send them out to get a bunch of beer. Invite one senior director every-other week for coverage and to see them 'in real life'.

      I learned more about how the office -really- works, got a lot of things actually done, and met the key players much faster than those who opted-out of 'breakdown'.

  • MediaWiki (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mewsenews (251487) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @07:35PM (#30966468) Homepage

    I found internal wikis to be a huge boost at my old job. At my current job everyone seems to do similar things using word files passed around over email which are like islands in the sea of information, easy to lose, easy to become outdated, etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      I work for a large company and mediawiki horrified senior management. They want information to be controlled. Everything on on the internal network is there because they want it there. I was in middle management when I put it in. It pleased a lot of my peers but pissed off management to no end.

      • by AuMatar (183847)

        I worked for a large company and was asked to implement a company wide wiki. They were quite happy with MediaWiki. They did ask me to hack in authentication via the internal network standard, but they were happy to have it. So it depends on the clue level of management.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe it's just me, but I don't go to work for "community". Don't get me wrong; I like what I do and we are all cordial at work and everything, but at the end of the day I don't really want to be your friend. Maybe this makes me "that guy", but that's fine with me; I just prefer to keep the professional and personal aspects of my life as separate as possible.

    • by causality (777677) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @08:30PM (#30966858)

      Maybe it's just me, but I don't go to work for "community". Don't get me wrong; I like what I do and we are all cordial at work and everything, but at the end of the day I don't really want to be your friend. Maybe this makes me "that guy", but that's fine with me; I just prefer to keep the professional and personal aspects of my life as separate as possible.

      I felt that way when I worked in a large office for a major corporation. Mostly because the socialization was perfunctory and not genuine, and could be filed under "office politics" more than anything. I saw how people gossipped about the relationships and private lives of others, and it was not in a compassionate or positive light. I quickly ended up feeling the same way that you do. Simply put, those are not the sort of "friends" I care to have. Though unrelated to me, my real friends are more like family members and this provided quite a contrast against this sort of childish politicking and vying for advantage. I was very good at what I did and enjoyed the work. I really just wanted to come in, do my job, and go home but was required to humor those who wanted to turn work into a social club.

      I was convinced that a lot of these folks had no social life whatsoever outside of work, and were trying to compensate for that by imposing on others by means of the corporate hierarchy. It really showed in the undue and greatly exaggerated importance that minor meetings and events had for these folks. It's like organizing little lunches and get-togethers was the only time they felt significant or important, which frankly was sad to see. I'm all for being on good friendly terms with co-workers, but I hope the inquirer of this Ask Slashdot doesn't take it too far and replicate this sort of maladaptive behavior.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AuMatar (183847)

      I think you're missing out. Its the community at work that decides whether a job is a soul sucking, burnout inducing hole or someplace you can actually enjoy going to every day. Its not about office parties or other forced socialization, but being able to talk to your coworkers and enjoy it, being able to laugh at work together, etc. If I had to work somewhere again where there was no friendship I think I'd get suicidal- it just makes that huge a difference to actually enjoy 1/3 of your life.

      • I'd have to agree. Hell, I didn't know how to bowl, but at least the boss was going to buy the food and sodas. So I went, and it became a semi-regular thing (groups is small enough to decide ad hoc). THe boss can afford to miss it, but at least he started it. He was young and open enough to hang and even brought his kids one time so his family could play, not with us, but in their lane for some family time together (the food and video games helped bring in the kids).

        To the OP, put out an informal bulletin b

      • by ultranova (717540)

        Its the community at work that decides whether a job is a soul sucking, burnout inducing hole or someplace you can actually enjoy going to every day.

        On the other hand, if you enjoy your work and are friends with your coworkers, you'll lose far more than just pay when you're fired.

        There's something to be said for working in the same place your entire career.

  • Back before everybody at work had internet access we had newsgroups. Then I installed mediawiki, mainly for work, but you could use it for anything. Then somebody took a dislike to newsgroups and replaced it with phpbb (which I dislike) then about the same time external internet access was switched on and I pretty much stopped talking online with my co-workers.

    But if you want to have a work community start an online community on an external system. Let people from work log on but don't associate it with the

  • I have experience of working in a "community spirited" organisation. From the sound of it, it was larger than the one you have. It was terrible.

    Getting a decision made was almost impossible, as *everyone* had to be consulted, included and involved in every department, for every action (or so it felt like) - just in case it would affect them, and so they didn't feel "excluded". However, once you start asking for people's opinions they all feel obliged to offer something, or to make a suggestion, or to ask

  • by godrik (1287354) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @07:42PM (#30966512)

    A room with a coffee machine, one or two tables and some up-to-date newspaper will make people sit during their break and talk about the news.

    • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @08:15PM (#30966766)

      seconded - now you're moving away from the geeky 20-year olds you're simply finding that the usual geeky means of communication isn't suitable for everyone. In fact the 20-year olds will find this too as they age.

      So you have to go back to the traditional face-to-face stuff, meetings happen naturally round the coffee machine, the canteen, the smoking area (especially this place as I find people like to spend time out there chatting instead of working.. go figure!) you just need to encourage this kind of communication.

      Bear in mind people will be happy to talk to others, but won't initiate the communication - so you have to find reasons to make that happen. That means finding ways to put 2 people from different areas to work on something together.

    • by mdf356 (774923)

      Or do like at my current workplace: put a keg of beer in the cafeteria. Friday starting at 4 is beer and chips time. But sometimes you just need a beer on Tuesday after a hard day...

  • Internal "rotations" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 30, 2010 @07:44PM (#30966542)
    Bring the new hires in and then rotate them through each department/group in the company. Give them a day at each location to see what goes on there and meet/interact/tag along behind the group. It might take a week or two to get them through the entire company, but you will end up on a first name basis with most people and have a better appreciation for what their job entails.
  • Leagues... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomhath (637240) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @07:50PM (#30966580)
    Back in the "old days" employees organized golf, bowling, softball, or whatever leagues. Even something like a fantasy football league that only meets a few times a year will help people get to know each other.
    • Re:Leagues... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Thelasko (1196535) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @08:21PM (#30966790) Journal
    • Beyond insightful (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Overzeetop (214511) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @09:15PM (#30967176) Journal

      Nobody gets close working on work-related projects. It's the non-work things you have in common with people that makes them something other than their position. Unfortunately, you can't force this from the top, and your HR department can't be tasked with making everybody like each other*. You will need to get the ball rolling for extracurricular clubs. Note: this will cost company time, both when you set it up, and every time an event occurs. Golfers and bowlers will leave 10 minutes early to hit the links/lanes, and then waste another 20 minutes the next morning discussing the particulars of the event. It's worth it - worth every dollar.

      Sports: Golf, bowling, flag football, (insert other sports as appropriate)
      Arts: Dinner/show clubs (you provide busses, if possible), singing groups (a holiday chorus that sings at local events or ret. homes)
      Environmental/Community Service groups
      Anything where you have a group of people that cuts across the company (i.e. - no correlation to work stuff) is good.

      Help out with meeting space, minor cost items (weekly gift for lowest foursome, maybe a small trophy at the end, a room for group meetings or practices), but mostly leave them alone. If you meddle, it will backfire.

      Finally, understand that there will be some people who completely separate work from play - they're there for a paycheck, and have no desire to interact. Offer them inclusion, but mostly let them be.

      *The "company picnic" is about the worst function ever to try and engender camaraderie. You throw people together who interact in smaller groups, with interest completely apart from the activities you will provide.

  • by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Saturday January 30, 2010 @07:51PM (#30966588) Journal

    I work for a small company where all but two of the employees work remotely from our homes. We are an engineering-consulting company and are very dependent upon each other for we each have very different skill-sets. Here is my impression on how it works for us;

    1. The hiring process is very prolonged, taking weeks and multiple interviews with many people. Only part of this is for the technical skills necessary to do the kind of work we do. The interview process is to make sure that our new hires are cultural fits into our work model and are capable of self-starting and have initiative.

    2. We keep in contact constantly by telephone, GoToMeeting, email and collaborative work assignments.

    3. While we have owners who are also employees we work in a very dynamic manner. It is not unusual for a very new person to be the senior of a manager/owner on certain projects.

    4. We all share the same goals for our company. We know what is happening, what is important at the moment and the need to be completely flexible.

    As we grow more we are certain to eventually develop some sort of central office but the heart and soul of the company will be spread across the company.

  • Two words: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Nerf Guns

    • by Tynin (634655)
      Depends on the environment. I worked for Florida Internet back when mom and pop ISP's were more common. At Flinet, many forms of office politics could be handled by a good old fashion nerf gun fight. However when we were later bought out and assimilated into our new parent company, they took less kindly to us taking to the halls with cushy little nerf missiles flying in all directions. (The looks we'd get from Sales, you'd think they wore suits when they were at home as well) Something about the corporate e
      • by AuMatar (183847)

        Unless they outright ban it, why do you care how sales looks at you? Hell, that would cause me to aim one at them.

  • Older Guy (Score:4, Informative)

    by stokessd (89903) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @07:52PM (#30966596) Homepage

    As an older guy in your scenario (40ish), I'd have to say that I don't want to socialize more with most of my co-workers unless there is a charge number in it. As with the rest of life my desire to be around my co-workers follows the 80/20 rule. In this case, about 80% of my co-workers should not be near me without a charge-number.

    Sheldon

  • by h00manist (800926) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @07:54PM (#30966612) Journal
    and take a barista class. a couple classes in rebellions and revolutions 101, too. and perhaps some study of war, peace, and public speaking. shoot the computers.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    100+ emails a day from automated checks? Talk to whomever set these checks up and they surely will help you curtail the flow. I've been in "automated monitoring" for years and usually when people get a lot of email it's because:
    - The monitoring system performing these checks hasn't been tended to for awhile
    - People become passive with email alerts because they can filter them into email boxes (ignored or glanced at once a day/week), causing the problem to get worse as time passes because "I get all this em

    • by Tynin (634655)
      A 100+ emails a day is quite a low number even if they only have a few hundred servers. Then again, places I've worked use email as a back up method of reporting a problem as well as a webpage / app that reports it as well. The idea for the redundant monitoring is that if the monitoring server's apache goes down, or the app stops working, at least we'll get an email on it, and visa versa. Between disk space, strange logs, run away processes, garbage collection times that start taking too long, broker servic
  • Job security (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fractal Dice (696349) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @07:55PM (#30966616) Journal
    People will get along with people they know they are going to be working with for a long, long time. People aren't going to form emotional attachments to people who may mysteriously vanish from their cubicals after the next quarterly results. Older workers know the game ... the younger ones are still naive about what lays ahead.
    • Re:Job security (Score:5, Insightful)

      by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @08:12PM (#30966750)
      Plus, older people will already have a well established circle of friends so won't necessarily feel the need to make more. That doesn't mean that they'll be cold or stand-offish, but it does mean they won't necessarily feel the need to be best buddies with every 20-something, who only wants to talk about what 20-somethings talk about. They will also have different styles of social lives, such as having to get a baby-sitter whenever they want to go out, so the possibility of spontaneous gatherings or beer-busts after work won't necessarily appeal.
    • People aren't going to form emotional attachments to people who may mysteriously vanish from their cubicals after the next quarterly results.

      Let me guess, you've never been to College, or you've never had any emotional attachments there.

  • In Santa Cruz, it is customary for employees at high tech companies to have a few beers at a local pub after work on Friday, grab some dinner and then head to the CEOs or VPs house for naked hot tubbing. It's a great way to get to know each other and and no one has anything to hide. SCO even had their own hot tub in the office court yard.
  • by zitsky (303560) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @07:56PM (#30966620) Homepage

    I've worked in several startup companies that grew quickly. You can't *make* people want to get to know each other or spend more time together. You're fighting the natural changes that happen when a company starts getting bigger. Implementing technology will not solve the problem you're trying to address. If you really want people to know each other and interact, then find ways for them to spend face time with each other. Host parties, organize events at local bars, have some group lunches, etc.

    • by Aladrin (926209) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @08:11PM (#30966732)

      No, it needs to be taken a step further. They need facetime -in the office-. They need to work together and discuss things constantly if you want them to feel like a team. People you only see at the company picnic are just people, not friends or even really co-workers.

      But the company probably doesn't want to pay for them to talk to each other. They would rather pay them to be productive instead. You'll have a hard time making this actually happen.

  • by chrysrobyn (106763) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @08:01PM (#30966666)

    Your problem is that you don't see much between Facebook and a fully catered company outing.

    Once a month, a volunteer from every department gets the department to go to a local bar or local eating establishment. If they're lucky, the manager will cover half the costs, the grunts pick up the rest. My manager orders a few pitchers of Shiner Bock and a few appetizer plates and asks for $5 from everybody. Not everybody attends, and there's more than one person who doesn't drink alcohol, but they have O'Douls or whatever monstrosity, so they're placated.

    Of course, the word "volunteer" is important. Once one person does this in one department, and they get to talking, hopefully another department will pick up too. If two departments complete a big project, then two departments can get together and maybe the other one will think it's a good idea and try to do it too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      I worked for Tivoli shortly after their heyday, which is to say, just after IBM acquired them. We had beer bashes on Fridays (do those still happen?) and offsite company meetings once a year, which means I attended one (not counting the billion dollar bash with Lyle Lovett — YAWN)

      None of these events did anything to bring people together. People hung out with people they know. I hear the ropes course actually works, though. :)

      The one thing I saw that worked was to include someone from another departme

  • None of the things that I see mentioned will really help build community or get people to know each other. To do that, you need to setup an informal environment where people can relax. An all-hands company meeting can never be that. One company I worked at used to have some sort of celebration a few times a year. For example, they would have an Oktoberfest thing with free beer and snacks on a Friday afternoon. Other events were summer barbeques and ice cream socials.

    All of these things encourage people

  • employee directory (Score:2, Interesting)

    by snsh (968808)
    If a company uses Active Directory and Exchange, I try to set them up with DirectoryUpdate to keep AD updated with names, phone#'s, org chart, photos.
  • The best ideas are the one you have yourself. These are the ones you remember. These are the ones that charge you enough emotionally that you're willing to act on them.

    No one likes being manipulated into a system, into a different way of doing things. If you try to "impose" an "open, community environment" it will most likely backfire. However if you approach the people you want to include, present the problem to them and LISTEN to their suggestions, you're likely to get better results. Don't think of "one

  • Two Words: (Score:2, Funny)

    by xefer (1733806)
    Alcohol
  • by elsJake (1129889) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @08:11PM (#30966734)
    As you get more and more people involved it's only natural for things to get colder. Human beings aren't built to get close to everybody , most can only "handle" a certain amount of friends.
    You can certainly try to make them all get along with various teambuilding activities , parties and the like , and that will help to some extent , but you can't force them to feel close to one another. After all you can't offer 10 people the same amount of time you could offer 5 , if you were to divide it equally.
    The only thing you can do is hope that people working in the same team will start to bond while at the same time not gather any negative sentiments towards other teams.
    The best way you can do that ? Make sure everybody is doing their job right _and_ not pissing all over other people's job.

    Example Case : You've got the IT service guys fixing everything up , cleaning all the viruses from the network, but the rest of them can't be bothered to remember one secure password to their account.
    IT will hate everyone for making their job more difficult than it should be , and everybody will hate the IT workers because they caught them on a bad day and got shouted at.

    Another thing I've found helpful is having a friendly face pop in and ask if there's any unresolved issues in any department or if there's any improvement that can be made. This person can't always be their direct boss , people get scared of talking about things that bother them to people that have a say over their future.

    In the end all these people are only there for one thing , their job. Make sure they can do it as easily as possible , and as good as they can and you'll see people getting along.
    What pisses people off the most is _wasting their time_ even if they're getting paid for that waste time it will hurt them and they will take it out on others. At the same time don't force them to pretend their having fun if their not , that just annoys people further

    Now since they're all trying to do their job , if you can show them that it would be easier if they worked together , that would help even more. GIve them the proper tools to collaborate and help each other and they'll all thank you for it.
  • E-mail is the main source of communication, but can't it be painful sometimes? Everyone on the IT side receives alerts about tickets and other automated checks of systems. On any given day I generally receive 100+ alert messages. When we're not reading our filtered alerts into specified folders, general discussion about projects and fixing issues usually is anywhere from 20-60 messages a day. Quite honestly, I'm sick of e-mail and don't wish to get any more of it.

    There problem here is that you are using

  • As a SENIOR staff member @55, it "resemble" that remark! IBM use to promote work at home, home at work. Don't know if they still do. More lip service anyway. My advice is not to get too chummy (overtly) at the work place, making it too family oriented is not all good. Keep the work professional and "on task" keeps folk as better more productive workers and happier, of all age mixes. Yes, you can still have fun but your there to your job to do. It also helps to keep the inevitable work place politics
  • Being an IT company, I find it more natural for collaboration via computer, but welcome more traditional methods too.

    Bring beer.

    It's been the traditional way for IT people to communicate since at least the Stone Age.

    "Facebook" "Chat" "Meetings" Are you kidding? You want real communication? Real feedback? Beer and a whiteboard.

  • One thing to do is help the people who aren't used to it get set up with it, and set up multiple channels, so people know how to set up smaller chat groups. I am usually on about 8 channels on the work IRC server. There's a couple of functional groups ("people who work on feature X"), a couple of corporate structure groups ("people who report to manager Y"), at least one physical group ("people in office Z"), and a few others for things like "no managers" or "only people who don't care whether you're PC".

  • environment (Score:5, Informative)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @08:31PM (#30966866)

    Most companies I've ever work for especially in the US think its OK to put their employees in conditions you wouldn't keep an animal in.
    If you want people to feel good about working there then the first thing is to make the office a nice environment to be in.
    Get rid of dehumanising things like cubes, dress codes for people that never face clients, institutional wall and floor colours, and especially kill that horrible strip lighting that most offices use. Get some plants, shared spaces with comfortable furniture and as much natural daylight or eyestrain-friendly lighting in the place as you can.

    • by AbRASiON (589899) *

      It's pretty obvious to me you're no manager of any kind, what kind of response is this! ", dress codes for people that never face clients,"
      Logic? In the management of an IT business? Surely not :(

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Al Dimond (792444)

      I agree that cubes are pretty bad. I've worked in a cube and I've worked in an open-floor office. The open-floor office was much better. I had less personal space but I didn't feel walled in. Cubes don't really provide meaningful privacy but do stunt social activity and collaboration. That is, you can hear the guy two cubes over haggling over car prices on the phone, but if you want to round up people to go out you have to go around to everyone's cube individually. And when you're in an open environment you

  • My previous company made a practice of hosting several events a year... one of which was a family inclusive event. Totally optional, of course, but since at least 50% of the employees did have family, participation was fairly high. This even could be anything, although some years it got pretty nice (trip to local amusement park, etc.)

    The remaining events were employee-centric... a BBQ in the parking lot, a afternoon at the bowling alley, and so forth. This kind of activity provided a place outside of wo

  • It use to be popular, but IT bust and recession means you don't see team building outings. Best I ever went on was a half day sailing on the harbour - large boat, team effort required, introductory sailing. A couple of people already knew what they were doing and shared the knowledge with the newbs. Only problem is that's just one day and can be expensive. Team sports last longer, but can lead to time off work due to injury. What you basically need to do is get people doing something they ENJOY together rat

  • by oheso (898435) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @08:41PM (#30966934)
    ... brought to you by the Department of Community Relations (formerly HR)
  • drop down to the level where you have groups of say 30 people now ask whomever is in charge of that level to answer the following WITHOUT CONSULTING HR OR A SECRETARY
    for each employee
    1 what is this persons full name?
    2 what does this person like to be called?
    3 is this person married? To Whom?
    4 numbers and names of children?
    5 noteable skills of said children
    6 schools attended by said children
    7 noteable skills of the employee not related to the business
    8 noteable skills of the employeee related to but not curr

  • how playing games over the network with each other?

    or other fun stuff like poker (play for fun)

  • Food and drink (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cyrano de Maniac (60961) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @08:54PM (#30967012)

    It's simple really -- the same way you build up relationships with people outside the office -- around food and drink.

    Things that have worked very successfully at my workplace (not all in place at the same time over the years):

    - Friday Beer Bash. 3PM on Fridays (or most Fridays) have a self-sponsored beer bash. A few volunteers buy beer, some non-alcoholic beverages, and some chips/cookies etc. Everyone is invited to come, sit, and visit. Everyone is expected to chip in a couple bucks toward the food.

    - Donuts. A set of people gets together at the same time in the morning once a week (Friday at 8AM when we did it) for donuts in the conference room. This isn't a "come grab a donut and go back to your office/cube" thing, but sit around the conference room and talk about anything and everything (work related or not). The participants are on a rotation to bring donuts, milk, and juice, paying out of their own pocket whenever their rotation comes around.

    - Grilling. Pitch in together to buy a grill (or get one donated by someone, or the company). During months where the weather is nice enough, grill lunch outside, everyone bringing their own items to grill that day. Probably do this once a week. Organize payment for propane/charcoal however makes sense (chip in a buck once a week/etc).

    - Cooking contests. An annual brownie contest, chili and cornbread contest, etc. A panel of employee judges gets to judge the contest, or everyone in attendance votes for their favorites. Have some sort of small prizes for the top three (e.g. small gift cards), funded however makes sense (company, entrance fee, proceeds from employees chipping in at the door to cover extras like beverages).

    - Often the "self-sponsored" events above (beer bash, grilling, donuts if you choose to do it that way) end up generating more cash than actual costs. Whenever the amount builds up to a sufficient level, have a "free" pizza/whatever lunch paid out of the proceeds.

    - Not quite a food thing, more of a beer thing, but start up a bowling league, company softball team, or something like that that gets people from different departments to join up around a common interest.

    • All excellent examples. Some of the things that help these events work:

      - variety. I can't drink or have donuts or pastries for health reasons, but I love to cook chili, or chicken wings, or something hearty for lunch. other people have different health, cultural, or religious restrictions.

      - self-sponsored. volunteer organizers, keep it simple and light. too many companies that do "events" over-control them; timed to the minute, checklisted, get in the queue, march

  • Recommendation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 955301 (209856) on Saturday January 30, 2010 @08:58PM (#30967036) Journal

    You are fighting an impossible cause. We aren't designed to know and care about this many people. If you intend to let your business grow beyond 10 individuals (Yes! Ten. Those people each have at least 3 people they care about, making the minimum count 30 already) then you will fail to accomplish what you are looking for. More importantly, if some of them fall for it and begin to trust others at the office, they run the risk of being *deceived by someone they are attempting to trust*, while at work. You will have effectively attached their desire to work there to the outcome of any one relationship they build at work. If *one* relationship goes sour, the person is that more likely to leave altogether. This is why you want all relationships to "not mean anything" at work. It's important to the business.

    Other than that, best of luck.
    http://www.cracked.com/article_14990_what-monkeysphere.html [cracked.com]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar's_number [wikipedia.org]

    • by Geekbot (641878)

      Agreed. My workplace is unpleasant. In order to increase employee retention they focus on "building relationships" rather than improve the basic working conditions. They believe that having a friend at work will keep you there. Of course this is a huge problem for them as well, because while you might stay for your friend, your just as likely to quit when they leave because they are the only thing keeping you there.

      Mixing work and personal lives is a disaster. All workplaces want this when they want you to

  • If you want to really get to know your coworkers, organize some sort of event with alcohol. (Caveat being make sure HR / CEO / Managers are cool with this first.)

    This doesn't have to be a big formal thing or anything. Just send off an e-mail saying "There'll be a bunch of beers and some wine over in [common area] at 3:30pm this [good day of the week when people are actually around]! Come hang out and get to know your co-workers!" Maybe set up a big TV with Guitar Hero or some sort of video game that is

  • by kenh (9056)

    At a previous employer they had a few lunch-centric policies that I think worked out well.

    The first was you had to have lunch with one of the two founders to get an offer - this had the added benefit that the owners knew you, and you knew (atleast one of) them, you'd feel connected instantly.

    The second was that once you started working, your coworkers were encouraged to take you out to lunch on the companies dime. It only lasted for one week, but during that week you would be the most desirable lunch compan

  • technology isn't very good for a "community environment", usually quite the reverse. People sending emails when they could be getting up and talking face-to-face (or at least using the telephone) is a bug-bear for many people and many organisations actively discourage it.

    Forums have no more value than email, it just doesn't pop up on your screen when you're trying to work. Instant messengers are merely an even worse form of email, because they positively demand an instant response and at best you get cliq

  • On the technology side, get SharePoint Server with Office Communication Server. Both integrate with Outlook & Exchange and provide ample collaboration and chat capabilities and would give you the internal social networking feel you want, if you design it too.

    On the real world, here is what some companies I have worked for have done.
    -At work "olympics". Find some dumb tasks or events and have competitions for them. It may seem dumb, but people have fun.
    -Regular company outings. - Softball tournements, bo

  • StatusNet (Score:2, Interesting)

    by supersloshy (1273442)

    StatusNet [status.net] is a neat platform that runs Identica [identi.ca], a twitter alternative. It's free as in freedom (GNU AGPL), and it has pretty much every feature twitter has and more. You can view conversations people have instead of searching for hours for who-responded-to-what-and-how-many-people-were-involved. You can customize the theme and upload files, too! There's lots of other optional features you can use as well, and it has a similar API to twitter, so lots of applications already support it. Try it out and see if

  • If you can get people involved in picnics, contests, sports teams, perhaps a company band, you will have a close community with little turnover. It is important that much of these activities take place after work or on weekends so that social life and work become more welded together. For example with 100 employees you will be having birthdays every week. Make that cake ritual part of the Saturday ball game and announce the birthday will be held at the ballgame on the actual birthday. That way you s

  • Firstly, I congratulate you for your caring enough about taking on the issue.

    However, I think it is worthwhile to ask (if you, like most companies, have not already considered) whether employees have enough incentive to really want to work together in your company.

    If companies gave a share of the profits to every employee in the company, not only would those employees have a stake at being more polite to clients, more innovative, etc., they would also see that their own interests were tied up in the interes

    • The problem is that people aren't willing to stick around and get paid $25k if the company has a bad year in return for the chance to make $150k if it has a good one. People love a share of the profits, but for some reason management and shareholders are always the ones who need to suck it up and take a loss.
  • I never wanted to be "part of the group" at work. I always wanted to go do my job, have a few pleasant if not funny conversations with people while I worked with them, and then go home and forget about them and work and the rest of the nightmare. when they would have these "team building exercises" I would usually find some way to get out of going or doing it, such as calling in sick or fucking something up that would "require my attention".

    The ONLY time I would do the "team building thing" would be if it

  • If you want people to come together and socialize, the only time they can do it is during lunch. Before or after work, people want to tend to their lives. During working hours you want them to work. Therefore, the solution is to provide lunch. Everyone loves free food (make sure it's good and healthy) so that's going to put your people into a better mood right off the bat. Eating together is the most time honored and proven solution to building community. It's baked into our DNA. People won't even re

  • Get the company to frequently sponsor pizza parties or some other type of food event. People tend to connect while eating. Also start hobby-based groups. Start a running/cycling group, a golfing group, a knitting group, etc. The hobby groups are how people tend to connect outside of their departments.

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