The Potential Value of Secret Santa

During any normal period, it is vitally important to ensure that the team works well together. This does not mean that everyone has to be best buddies. But team spirit needs to be preserved through informal contacts, social interaction and small gestures with a great personal effect such as “secret santa”. Let’s go through the way to achieve great things by creating a sense of belonging.

The people who work in a company are its most precious asset. They form the company culture and values, constitute the foundation on which projects can be constructed, innovation created and ideas rolled out and thus they have a hugely important impact on the perennity of any company.

A team creates a sense of belonging

Some companies use a method such as MBTI[1] to ascertain the personality types represented in their teams, this helps everyone to understand why each colleague works in a particular way and generally serves to support the way a team interacts. Other companies recruit on the basis of capability testing in the hope of ensuring that the competencies acquired by hiring this person will enhance overall team performance.

On paper this may be an admirable approach, but often in reality the “chemistry” of a team can prove far more effective than the sum of their competencies. The feeling of belonging and being part of something meaningful can contribute far more to overall engagement and passion for the work than the fact that one person is an expert in their field.

Team spirit is a valuable asset

Many recruiters will confirm that a vital element of any interview process consists in determining whether the candidate will integrate well into an existing team; nothing could be more disastrous than a new employee damaging the coherence and harmony of a team which is focused and works well. This was already the case in the past, then came Covid. Employees started working from home for an undefined period of time and whilst many of them enjoyed the flexibility and lack of commuting, most regretted the loss of interaction and social contacts with their colleagues. A zoom coffee break is a good idea, but is just not the same as an impromptu and informal chat at the workplace!

The importance of social interaction

In their article “Six ways to reboot your brain”[2], a group of experts explains the importance of looking after our mental wellbeing, especially during a period of uncertainty such as we are all currently undergoing.

Amongst the more obvious aspects such as increased exercise and healthy eating, they also list sleeping well, being kind, learning something new and – interestingly – keeping socially connected. Who would have thought that a feeling of loneliness could have an adverse effect on our cognitive capabilities, but it seems that “social interaction is associated with positive feelings and increased activation in the brain’s reward system” – in short we need to interact to function successfully!

How can informal contacts help?

This is where a CSR committee can play a vital role in maintaining – albeit – virtual contacts between employees and boosting morale when the news out on the www is not too encouraging. A regular social exchange, an amusing monthly afterwork, a Whatsapp group can all make a major contribution to maintaining a feeling of being part of a reliable team.

In the run up to Christmas MindForest launched an Advents Calendar on its Intranet featuring pictures submitted by colleagues as well as amusing videos, which embedded team photos in music videos (of course in each case with prior individual approval and only for internal use), everyone looked forward to opening a new door and discovering the day’s surprise. A small gesture with a great humane effect.

Being kind to your colleagues

We also launched a Secret Santa challenge, each team member agreed to send a colleague a little present (due to the sanitary restrictions), all of which were then opened during a dedicated Zoom coffee break. The presents are given anonymously and nevertheless they provide a lot of insight into the way a team functions, as colleagues picked up on small preferences to give another person a moment of pleasure.

There was no cost to the company – except the time taken for the break – and the success of the activity was guaranteed by the fact that everyone wanted to see their present being well received. Once again a small gesture with a great personal effect!

Your staff are your greatest asset

The longterm sustainability of a company depends on a great variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control, for example market fluctuations, pandemics, etc.. Therefore it becomes all the more important to ensure that those factors we can influence really are taken into consideration. In a team where interaction and mutual respect are highly valued and woven into the company DNA, the sum of the individuals will encourage it to achieve great things and to go that famous extra mile – that is invaluable for any company and should never be forgotten.

Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success

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[2] Published 31.12.2020 on The Conversation Professor Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian, Dr Christelle Langley & Professor Jianfeng Feng