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We spend most of our time at work. So, how can we make our work lives better with regards to our relationships, creativity, life transitions, and the unpredictable ebb and flow of the organization as a whole?
Research shows the act of performing a ritual—even at work—helps you feel more satisfied and in control. Whether it’s a morning walk or a team celebratory dinner, rituals serve to regulate performance, sharpen focus, create a bond between co-workers, and reinforce common goals.
At the end of the day, work is about the search for daily meaning. In fact, American workers said they’d be willing to earn less money for a meaningful career. And rituals in the workplace are shown to improve collective experiences and create purpose. Most rituals follow a pattern or a script and are done with intent and heightened awareness, which is more meaningful than simply going through the motions of your work week.
Kursat Ozenc, Ph.D. and Margaret Hagan, Ph.D., authors of Rituals for Work, have identified 50 creative rituals to foster engagement, shared purpose, and a resilient work culture. Here are five you can infuse into your own professional life:
1. Walking Meetings: Team members simply walk together along a route outside for a set amount of time while trying to talk out a problem or brainstorm. Walking side-by-side instead of holding a face-to-face meeting around a table increases creativity and convergent thinking and fosters productive conversations, regardless of seniority. It’s a good idea to provide a point-of-interest stop along the way to create a sense of purpose.
2. Backstory Dinners: The team gathers in a comfortable space and one person shares his or her personal history—using slides, photographs, music—for 30 minutes while everyone eats. This ritual helps team members from diverse backgrounds get to know each other better. It also increases empathy among colleagues and even builds storytelling skills.
3. Blind Writing: This is an individual ritual for deeper creative work. Set a timer for 15 minutes and cue up a music playlist. Now dim your screen to black and start typing. You shouldn’t be able to see anything on your screen, which eliminates distractions or the urge to “edit” as you go. Keep writing until the timer goes off. Now turn up the screen’s brightness—and see what appears. Simply cut, paste, and salvage the good stuff!
4. Gratitude Jar: Small appreciations can go a long way to help repair strained relationships in an organization. Write down individual contributions on pieces of paper and drop them in a “small moments jar.” As the collection of notes grows, the jar can be emptied once a month for the team to read. This exercise in gratitude helps to balance out any negative feelings with positive ones.
5. Welcome Kits: To establish a meaningful welcome ritual, you must offer a gift that articulates your company’s core values and culture. One of Dropbox’s tenets is “cupcakes,” representative of the company’s lighthearted approach to building software. Claire Pedersen, an organizational designer at Dropbox, built a create-your-own-cupcake kit for their new hires, a memorable (and yummy!) token of appreciation.
“It’s not about one single strategy to make relationships better. It’s about an ecosystem of small behaviors that add up to meaning and connection,” says Anima LaVoy, social impact experiences lead at Airbnb. Our inner lives and relationships have a major impact on our happiness quotient, which is why rituals are so important to sustaining engagement and positivity for the duration of your career.