Here's how to celebrate Valentine's Day in the workplace

Celebrate Valentine’s Day in the workplace differently this year — focus on compassion, kindness, friendship and “human leadership.” (Photo via Kate Ter Haar, Flickr)


A new Harvard Business Review article on “human leadership” is food for thought not only on engaging employees but on how to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the workplace.
The takeaway? Skip the romance, keep the candy. Focus on activities that build or celebrate compassion, friendship and kindness. (Incidentally, this week is Random Acts of Kindness Week!)
The authors of the HBR article “Why Do So Many Managers Forget They’re Human Beings?” are organizational strategists with the mindfulness-training company Potential Project.
They lead with a quote from Javier Pladevall, CEO of Audi Volkswagen of Spain: “Leadership today is about unlearning management and relearning being human.”
True leadership, the authors argue, emerges from “our abilities to form personal and meaningful bonds with the people whom we lead.”
“This is truer now than ever, as millennials are becoming the majority population in most companies. Millennials are not satisfied with only a paycheck, bonus, and benefits. They want meaning, happiness, and connectedness, too,” they write.
Potential Project’s organizational strategists aren’t the only ones calling for more connectedness.
A kinder, more human workplace is the top workplace trend in recent times, according to Forbes contributor Dan Schawbel.
“Companies will continue to promote their workspaces and design them to facilitate interpersonal relationships between employees,” Schawbel predicts. “Leaders who encourage personal connections will have more committed, satisfied and productive workers.”
When it comes to celebrating Valentine’s Day in the workplace, this new style of leader recognizes that employees are eager for more meaningful connections — and Valentine’s Day is a chance to focus on a different kind of love: the “companionate love” we feel for our coworkers, team and customers.
Read on for ideas on how to put the “human leadership” perspective into action on Valentine’s Day in the workplace, or any day for year-round employee engagement.

How Workplaces Foster ‘Companionate Love’ All Year

In the big picture, we can see how top companies are facilitating kinder, more connected workplaces.
Forbes contributor Dan Schawbel cites three:

  • Apple designed an innovative new facility to promote worker relationships, idea-sharing and collaboration.
  • The new Google Cafés on the Google campus encourage interactions between employees across departments and teams.
  • IBM recently stopped its remote-working program, pushing thousands of employees back to the office.

“All three companies have found that when employees bump into each other in physical environments, it sparks creativity and relationship-building that leads to positive outcomes,” Schawbel writes.
He also highlights new research that shows Gen Z and Millennials prefer in-person conversations over using technology. Face-to-face interaction is indispensable to forging partnerships and friendships, even among the always-connected generations that came of age with social media.
“While technology can make us more efficient, and feel highly connected to one another, it will never replace face-to-face conversations,” Schawbel writes.
But short of a major re-design or team re-organization, what can we do to promote better connections among employees? In the day to day, what small activities can we undertake to build a kinder, more compassionate and connected workplace?
The authors of the HBR article on “human leadership” have four broad pieces of advice for leaders who want to be more effective:
Be personal. Put yourself in employees’ shoes and imagine they are family members or friends.
Be self-aware. When you understand yourself, you are better able to understand and empathize with the people you lead, and in turn lead for their intrinsic motivation.
Be selfless. Leadership is not about you, but about the people and the organization you lead.
Be compassionate. When it comes to leadership, nothing beats compassion. It is a universal language that is understood by anyone, anywhere. Make a habit of asking one simple question whenever you engage with anyone: How can I help this person have a better day?

7 Ideas for Celebrating Valentine’s Day in the Workplace

Why not start a new compassion habit with Valentine’s Day — or for a week-long celebration, Random Acts of Kindness Week? Here are seven tips for honoring and celebrating Valentine’s Day in the workplace:
1. Spread the love with doughnuts and bagels for the whole office
Your local doughnut shop will have Valentine’s Day-themed doughnuts to share. Keep the color theme going with bagels with strawberry cream cheese, too. Most importantly, set aside a little time for everyone to socialize while they enjoy the treats.
2. Try a mindfulness exercise
A mindfulness meditation in the workplace (done alone or with others) calms the brain, helps us focus better and allows us to open up more meaningfully with coworkers. Try one of Mindful’s “Top 10 Guided Practices” for any occasion, from a 3-minute pick-me-up to a 30-minute “mindful inquiry.” Feeling overwhelmed? Try the 7-minute guided meditation to shift out of “doing mode.”
3. Donate blood as a team
It’s easy, it helps others and it’s a fantastic team-building activity. The Red Cross has details on how and where to donate.
4. Extend the Valentine’s Day spirit to customers
Hand out chocolates or candy and wish customers/clients “Happy Valentine’s Day!” It’s a chance to thank customers for their business and loyalty, with a sweet token of gratitude on the side.
5. Sponsor or host a heart-healthy event.
From a lunch-hour hike to a free night at the local gym for employees and their families, an employer-sponsored Valentine’s Day heart-healthy event shifts the focus of the day to wellness and is inclusive of everyone. Hat-tip to Compensation Cafe for this suggestion!
6. Pin Valentine Thank You’s to a “love board”
Put a “love board” up in a common area where employees can pin little Valentine “Thank You” notes to coworkers and share why they love their workplace and company.
7. Thank your team with Valentine candy and chocolates
Valentine's Day in the Workplace - Share the love with a gThankYou Candy Certificate and thoughtful note of appreciation.Have the CEO write a short but meaningful Thank You note to employees, wishing everyone a happy Valentine’s Day, then hand it out with little bags of candy. Better yet, choose $5 Candy Gift Certificates and let employees choose their favorite candy!
And don’t forget it’s National Random Acts of Kindness Week, also known as #RAKWeek. Ideas for celebrating and participating in #RAKWeek2018 are at randomactsofkindness.org.

Download Your Employee Celebration Calendar

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We’ve updated our annual day-to-day appreciation calendar with lots of new topics, new case studies and even more holidays and reasons to celebrate! As in previous years, the gThankYou calendar is jam-packed with insights into the latest HR trends, how-to tutorials for engaging and thanking employees, case studies to inspire you, examples of holidays to celebrate each month, and research statistics to help you make the business case for appreciation.
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2019 Employee Celebration Calendar - Free Download from gThankYou Employee Gifts

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