If you go to Las Vegas, make sure to visit the Zappos headquarters. You can schedule your visit online, and the Zappos van will come pick you up. As you walk into the building, you’ll encounter people chatting, smiling and saying hi to you. You’ll also see a big gong in the middle of the large office space. Anyone—including you or any Zappos employee—can go up to the gong at any point and make a big announcement.
It can be an employee celebrating, “Hey! I just spoke to a customer who says he now loves us more than ever,” or a visitor saying, “Hey! I’m visiting from Europe and this is the coolest company I’ve ever seen!”
Why do Zappos and other innovative companies encourage celebration? Most workplaces make some effort, be it going out to lunch to recognize a colleague’s birthday or presenting awards to the top producers. But you don’t have to limit your celebrations to once or twice a year. Create a culture of celebration instead. Here are three reasons you’ll be happy you did.
1. It brings people together
Laughter tunes a room, says David Sloan Wilson, Ph.D., in Evolution for Everyone. The sound and the positive expression of laughter are contagious. Psychologists used to think that in order for people to grow closer to each other, they needed to share their deepest, darkest vulnerabilities.
In one of the most groundbreaking pieces of research on human psychology in the last couple of decades, Shelly Gable, Ph.D., of the University of California at Santa Barbara and her colleagues turned those findings on their head.
They found that asking dating couples to discuss positive events—i.e., to celebrate together—led to more closeness, better relationships and fewer breakups than discussing negative events. So go ahead. Ask your colleagues what’s going well or what they are most proud of, and notice what happens.
2. It's free and effective
Zappos is the king of workplace celebration. For example, each time Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh congratulates an employee, he is using what we call Frequent Recognition and Encouragement (FRE). He changes the tone of the workplace with a technique that is free to use and can result in a 42 percent boost in productivity for teams, as we show in our book Profit from the Positive
Simply recognizing and celebrating progress together can result in a more productive team. Why not use a technique that is free, fun and can increase productivity at the same time?
Recognize and encourage
One very important aspect of using FRE: Don’t wait until a huge success or the end of your project to celebrate and recognize co-workers. Find smaller milestones along the way. Remember that feedback can go in any direction: peer to peer, manager to employee, or employee to manager. Members of one team we know say they count on their casual weekly Thursday lunches—where they talk about everything except work—to relieve stress.
Celebrate Fridays. Celebrate birthdays. Celebrate the good weather with lunch outdoors. If you work remotely, you can celebrate virtually, like the education company EverFi does. Each month a plastic shark gets mailed to the team member who was nominated by his peers for accomplishing something big. The recipient takes a funny photo of himself with the shark and shares it with the team.
3. Celebrations reverberate beyond the moment
Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered that one major benefit of positive emotions is that they broaden our thinking—we are more open to new ideas. That’s why we begin our weekly conference call with this question: “What’s one piece of good news, personally and/or professionally since we last talked?” In this way, we are encouraging our minds to be open to new ideas as we dive into our agenda.
“Happiness lies within every employee regardless of title, position or salary,” says one of our clients, Erneshia Pinder. “True leaders recognize what it takes to activate this happiness across all levels of the organization by knowing that every employee wants the same thing—to excel at what they do and to be happy while doing it.”
Last year on March 20, the International Day of Happiness, Erneshia hosted a potluck lunch at the office with the song “Happy” playing in the background, decorated a bulletin board with some pages from Live Happy, played a few games with the staff and gave away prizes.
“The intent was simple—to demonstrate that we valued employees by encouraging them to partake in activities that make them happy,” Erneshia says. “I have to say it was one of the best days in the office. The atmosphere was upbeat and positive and everyone wore a smile.