On Thursday we received an invitation from our daughter Katie and her husband Arcadio. They were planning a four square party/tournament at their house on Sunday. Actually they let it slip that they were having the party and we kind of invited ourselves. They didn’t strenuously object, so I think it was OK that we showed up. But that is not the point. Sunday was a beautiful day with bright sunshine and low wind, a perfect day for adults trying to recapture some of their youth.
When Joanne and I arrived, the four square lines were already chalked onto the driveway, and people were already playing. Adults occupied three of the squares and my 3 year old grandson Thomas occupied the fourth. I was invited to get into line so that I could enter the game once somebody was eliminated. For those of you who might not remember back to your grade school days, I will give you a brief synopsis of the game, compliments of Wikipedia.
“Four square is a ball game played among four players on a square court divided into quadrants. It is a popular game at elementary schools with little required equipment, almost no setup, and short rounds of play that can be ended at any time. Four square is usually played with a rubber playground ball, on a square court with four maximum players. The objective of four square is to eliminate other players to achieve the highest rank. A player is eliminated when a ball is bounced in a player's quadrant and the player is unable to touch the ball into another player's quadrant.”
Those of you who know me a little better know that I am more than a little bit competitive. Fortunately for the game, so were all the rest of the participants. We did give Thomas a little bit a leeway, but when he was eliminated, to the back of the line he went. Sure there were a couple of “discussions” regarding the legality of a certain hit or if the ball was actually in or out, but for the most part everyone got along great. As far as I could tell nobody stormed off mad or felt like they were picked on. Actually everyone commented how much fun they were having.
As small business owners and managers we have a responsibility to our employees to create a great working environment. Research shows that happy employees have a positive impact on a company’s profits and customer satisfaction by creating an atmosphere of open communication, recognition, trust, respect, and fun. So having a fun place to work can be profitable too! So how do you turn a dull, boring, non-fun place to work into a place where people want to show up excited every day? At some firms, a ping pong table helps, but from my point of view in the bank, a ping pong table in the lobby might look out of place.
Other ideas that I have seen work is a “food day”, where everyone brings something from home and the company provides meat, pizza or desserts. How about “provide a caption” for a picture or cartoon you have seen. Or how about a scavenger hunt for a prize hidden around the office? A clue per day provides fun and anticipation. Any idea that is fun, relatively inexpensive and builds comradery will work. It could even be an ongoing game of four square.
Our family had so much fun with our new game that we played again over Easter weekend. Who knows, four square might even become a Friedman family tradition!
Small Business Today is a bi-weekly feature written by Tom Friedman, market president of First National Bank, Ankeny.