5 Little to No Cost Tips to Celebrate Birthdays at Work

mh900422322Celebrating birthdays in the workplace is a great way to create a positive environment and form productive relationships between colleagues.  Every organization does things differently, but I think it is important to implement a “birthday celebration” policy that works for your business.  It’s also important to note that you don’t have to have a large budget to celebrate.  There are many different and thoughtful things you can do to that don’t cost anything.  Below are some ideas that I have either come up with or experienced and enjoyed.

1. Schedule a lunch for everyone in the office on the employee’s birthday. Depending on your organizations budget you could either have a pizza party, don’t forget to look for coupons, or if there isn’t much of a budget a pot luck is a great way to save money.  Another fun tip is find out what the Birthday Employee’s favorite type of food is; Mexican, Italian or American then tell everyone the theme for the pot luck lunch.

2. A card seems like such a small thing, but I think they go a long way and always put a smile on my face. It is an inexpensive method to show your fellow co-worker that you care.  You can even go as far as making your own card for an extra personal touch.

3. Who doesn’t love birthday cake? Why not instead of spending a bunch at the local grocery store, include everyone and have a bake off. This is a great way to encourage friendly competition and save money too!

4. The usual birthday celebration at work is cake, singing, and food. To add something different into the festivities how about play a game with everyone on the team. To keep cost down bring in a board game, deck of cards, or even create your own. It’s important to take a break to have fun and celebrate, whether you do it once a month, once a quarter or on the individual’s birthday.

5. Last but not least, giving perks to the individual whose birthday it is makes them feel special and excited to come in to work on their day. A couple ideas would be to allow them to; wear casual Friday clothes even if it’s not Friday, take an extra long lunch, park in the front of the building or even work from home half a day.

These are just a few tips I’ve come up with, I would love to hear what your organization does to celebrate birthdays. I know work can get hectic, but taking the time to appreciate your employees on their special day can help boost office morale as well as produce happy employees.  Birthday’s are a great opportunity to recognize your staff, but don’t forget that once a year isn’t enough.  Make sure your employees feel appreciated and important on a daily basis.

Best Ways to Celebrate National Walk to Work Day

mh900437940Raise your hand if you told yourself you’d work out more in 2014.  Now keep your hand up if you’ve stuck to your goal these past four months.  Whether your answer is yes or no, I think we can all admit we could always add another workout to our daily routine.   But how do we accomplish these lofty goals during the work day you ask?  Why not start on Friday, April 4th?  It just happens to be National Walk to Work Day!  For those of us not fortunate enough to have our commute in walking distance, here are some creative ways to incorporate this holiday into your Friday.

1. Walk to your favorite mid-afternoon spot. Instead of getting in your car and taking the 15 minutes to drive when you pick up lunch or Starbucks, grab a co-worker and walk to the nearest deli or coffee shop.

2. Use your lunch break to go for a walk. Working in Reston, I am fortunate to have the W&OD trail right behind my building.  What this has showed me is that there’s probably a great trail or walking path no matter where you are!  If you work in the city, take the time to check out that block around the corner.

3. Get to work a little early and leave a little early. Since National Walk to Work Day falls on a Friday use this as an excuse to get a work out in and start your weekend right!  There is nothing more relaxing than heading out while the sun’s still shining and ready for a nice walk around your neighborhood.

These are just some ideas I had but would love to hear how you incorporate this fun holiday into your work day! This is also a great low cost team building exercise which can help boost morale within the office.  Remember, no matter what you do, exercise is a great release of stress and gives you time to digest your day.  Rise to the occasion and take a load off on a nice spring Friday.  

Best 10 Last Minute Ideas for Celebrating National Employee Appreciation Day

Did you know that National Employee Appreciation Day is the first Friday of March every year? That is tomorrow, March 7th! Don’t worry, it’s not too late to celebrate. Check out my tips below for some last minute ideas on how to show your employees you appreciate them.

  1. Grab a couple bottles of wine and cheese platters from your local grocery store to treat your team to a relaxing glass of wine and snack at the end of the day.
  2. Order lunch for everyone to enjoy together.
  3. Write personalized letters or thank you cards to your employees to show your appreciation. This seems like a small gesture, but even a little note to let your employee know you appreciate them will brighten up their day.
  4. Let everyone leave an hour or two early since it is on a Friday.mh900402446
  5. Take your employees out to happy hour and for an extra bonus, let everyone leave an hour early to spend more time together at happy hour.
  6. Give out gift cards, even if it’s just a $5.00 gift card to Starbuck’s this is an easy way to show you value them as an employee. You could even hand out the gift cards in the beginning of the day and schedule a group trip to the closest Starbucks as a nice afternoon break for everyone.
  7. Who doesn’t love a sugar rush? Order cupcakes for your team as an afternoon pick me up.
  8. Schedule a morning meeting where you personally recognize each employee for their contributions and give other employees an opportunity to chime in with their positive remarks.
  9. Stop by your local coffee shop on your way into work and bring coffee and treats for everyone in the office.
  10. Use 8×11 cardboard papers and hang up a piece of paper for each employee with their name on it in your company conference room. Then ask each employee to write one thing they appreciate about that employee. This is a fun activity that everyone can be involved in and makes for great office décor.

National Employee Appreciation Day is a great opportunity to illustrate to your employees how important they are to you and your organization. Any of these tips would be a great way to show your employees how much you value their hard work. You could also combine a couple of the tips depending on your budget. Tips 3, 8, and 10 don’t cost anything but your time and can make all the difference.

Low Cost Ways to Celebrate the Holidays at Work

While the fall and winter months are jam-packed with holidays people often forget about all of the fun holidays in the spring.  Between Valentine’s Day and Easter, there is so much you can do for your employees without spending a great deal of money.  No matter the size of your office, it’s always nice to do something for the people you work with and it only takes a few minutes to show you’re thinking of them.

Below are a few ideas I’ve come up with for the holidays:

1. Valentine’s Day – What a perfect time to tell the people you work with how much you like them!  An easy and cost-effectivemh900432600 way to share this appreciation is playing a little game called, “What I Like About You”.  Cut out giant hearts with colorful paper and write each person’s name on one.  Then the next time you are all together, pass the hearts around and ask everyone to write what they like about that person on the person’s heart.  Not only will these make your employees stop and appreciate what their co-workers do for each other, but what a nice reminder for them as well to hear all the things that are noticed about them!

2. St. Patrick’s Day – This holiday always reminds me of being a little kid and my teacher decorating the classroom while we were out at recess.  But while the idea of decorating your office with confetti and treats sounds like a good idea, I am not sure everyone will be a fan.    Instead, plan a “Pot of Luck” event where every employee has to make or bake something green to eat!  The dish itself doesn’t need to be all green but the creative ways to incorporate the color green in the final product is what counts.  Give out a few prizes for categories such as “most creative”, “most green”, and “most delicious”.

3. Easter – Candy, bunnies, and eggs, oh my!  This holiday is always so much fun with the pastel colors and baskets of treats.  Grab some plastic eggs and fill them with different prizes and treats.  This could range from a gift card to a food place nearby, candy, or even cash.  Keep it under $10 and let each employee pick an egg.  Whatever is inside is theirs to keep!  My suggestion would be to only have a few eggs with the gift cards and money to keep costs at a minimum but the excitement of anticipating what’s inside is the best part.

These are just a few of my own and I would love to hear how you engage your employees during the holidays!  Remember, it’s not the quantity of the gift but the quality.  Employees don’t need fancy gifts and “hot” items to have a remarkable experience at work – all they need is an environment where they feel engaged and thought of.

Furloughs, Holiday Pay, and Weather Closures: Legal Guidelines and Best Practices for Winter HR Woes

Furloughs, Holiday Pay, and Weather Closures: Legal Guidelines and Best Practices for Winter HR WoesRemember when a snow day meant no school and neighborhood snowball fights?  The challenges of navigating winter weather closures can be far more difficult when you’re running a company. What if your company closes for a week between Christmas and New Year’s; are you required to pay employees?  The following guidelines should help you determine your legal obligations for these common winter payroll issues.

Inclement Weather

If your company closes at the discretion of management due to inclement weather, your payroll obligations will differ between exempt and non-exempt employees.

  • Exempt Employees: According to the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), an exempt employee must be paid for the full week if any work is performed during that week.  This is known as the salary basis.  If an exempt employee works Monday-Thursday but is unable to work on Friday because the business closes due to inclement weather, you would be required to pay them for the full week.  As an employer, the best strategy to avoid payroll liability and ensure a productive workforce is to remind employees of anticipated winter weather and encourage them to prepare for remote work whenever possible.  Employers may also wonder if they can require employees to use PTO.  Generally speaking, the FLSA permits this practice.  The best approach is to notify employees in advance and be consistent and reasonable for exempt and non-exempt employees.  For example, you can send an email at the beginning of the winter season clarifying that employees will be required to apply paid leave to any weather closures if they are unable to work remotely.
  • Non-Exempt Employees: For non-exempt employees, an employer must review state laws closely to determine if reporting or “show up” pay is due.  Federal law is silent on the issue of reporting pay but several states (California, Connecticut, DC, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island) have laws requiring this kind of compensation.  Let’s imagine that a non-exempt employee in California reports for an 8 hour shift at 8 AM, but is subsequently sent home by management at 10 AM when it starts to snow.  The employee must be compensated for 4 hours of pay, half of what they could have expected to earn.  Laws regarding the amount of reporting pay due vary state to state and some states have different laws governing pay for minors so employers should consult with an HR professional to make the correct determination for their operations.  If a non-exempt employee performs no work at all, the employer is not obligated to pay them.

Closed for the Holidays

If your company shuts down during the holiday season, it’s important to think about how the furlough will affect the salary basis for your exempt employees.  As discussed earlier, federal regulations require that an exempt employee receive a full week of pay for any week during which they perform work.  Therefore, an unpaid furlough spanning an entire work week would be legal whereas an unpaid furlough from Wednesday to the following Wednesday would threaten the salary basis and exemption status for exempt employees.  As discussed earlier, non-exempt employees do not need to be paid during the furlough unless they perform work; and you can require both exempt and non-exempt employees to apply PTO.  In summary, here is a list of best practices to follow in planning for furloughs:

  • Provide advance notice of the dates and any requirements to use PTO
  • Ensure that unpaid furloughs line up with your normal work week (remember that the FLSA allows employers to establish their own work weeks as long as it’s consistent.)
  • Emphasize to exempt and non-exempt employees that no work should be performed during the furlough

Paid Holidays and Holiday Double Time

Contrary to popular belief, employees are not entitled to paid holidays nor are they entitled to special rates of pay for performing work on a holiday. These practices have developed according to common custom and many employees mistakenly believe paid holidays or double time on holidays are legal entitlements.  The best way to approach this issue is to communicate with employees clearly regarding expectations and business operations.  If you operate a restaurant that serves meals during all major holidays, the corresponding scheduling requirements should be communicated to perspective employees during the hiring process.  You should also be consistent in whatever decisions you make.  Paid holidays are typically communicated in writing and any supplemental pay for working on holidays should be given at the same rate to all employees.

Figuring out the legally or ethically correct way to handle these issues can be challenging as it involves the interplay between regulations, expectations, and company policy.   It’s also important to note that these guidelines assume your employees are already classified correctly as exempt or non-exempt.  If you have any questions regarding these issues, feel free to call the HR experts at Helios.

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