The Importance of Workplace Rituals for Employee Well-being
Every day, we engage in a variety of rituals and some of them without much thought. From our morning coffee run to the team lunch on Fridays, these small consistent experiences help us connect and create a sense of belonging. Yet, many organizations while understanding the importance of community and team, often don't make the connection of employee rituals to an opportunity to foster employee well-being.
So what parts of rituals make them meaningful, and how can organizations develop and integrate them into their employees' workday?
What are Rituals
In the simplest of explanations, Ritual is much different than a habit. Habits are done without much intentionality behind them. Like brushing our teeth or taking the same route to work each day. Where rituals are more about creating intentionality. They typically evoke something like gratitude, mindfulness, and presence. This isn't to say that Habits couldn't create these things but typically if they do, I would suggest that they are entering the sphere of ritualism.
So, rituals have the power to create connections and build a deeper relationship to ourselves and to others. So you could then imagine that with the right intention, that engaging in a workplace ritual with our colleagues we are able to establish a shared experience and foster a sense of community.
"Before and after every big sales pitch, I brought the team together for an hour where we talked through our personal connection to the deal. What were each of us excited about, what part worried us, and what can the team do for you to make this feel like a successful experience? This connecting into the personal made such a huge impact on the way we presented, our willingness to be present in the room, and our cohesiveness in front a big potential client."
For workplace rituals to be effective, however, they need to be consistent. Consistency creates a sense of safety and it builds trust. Employees need to know they can count on you reliably to help them feel connected and valued.
That said, rituals should also allow for choice. Giving employees the option to participate or opt out can create an overall acceptance of individual choice. A foundation of empowerment and autonomy. It shows that the organization values each employee's individuality and respects their preferences.
"We had a small heart sticker placed on our work trucks when Johnny died on the job. Many of us touch the sticker before getting into our trucks every day. It reminds us that our life is precious and that this work needs us to be mindful. It's in some ways, the one thing that connects us all."
One of the most important aspects of workplace rituals is the intentionality used to promote them. If rituals are presented with a strict set of rules - it becomes work. It should feel less like a corporate launch and more like an invitation. Like the heart sticker, not everyone touches the sticker at the start of the day, but seeing others do it, or even just knowing the sticker is there, stirs something.,
"When I started seeing guys touch their stickers at the start of each day I was a little taken back but didn't want to jump on the band wagon. So I started winkin' at it everytime I get in my truck. lol...I'm not sure anyone knows I do that actually. Johnny was always winkin' at the ladies. It made them smile and it makes me laugh to think of what he would do if the ladies all started winkin' back!"
Nowadays, with the rise of remote work or hybrid work models, integrating workplace rituals may seem like a challenge. However, virtual rituals are possible as well. Team meeting mindfulness can be a great way to start a meeting and also end a meeting. I personally really love the scorecard.
"I ask each of my colleagues their personal and work-life score out of 5. As we go around the table we will hear some 1's and 2's but we also hear some 4's and 5's. It really helps each of us understand each other's mindset and emotional capacity. It helps me meet people where they are."
By prioritizing consistency, choice, and intentionality, organizations can create meaningful rituals that will keep employees engaged and energized. So next time you're at work, think about how you can create or strengthen those small daily rituals that bring joy and connection into your day.
So while coming up with a ritual may be difficult to do as an organization with the same time of process and procedures we typically use to do new things, perhaps this is an invitation to consider a small opportunity for connection like a sticker, a score or a connection and that by fostering community and creating deeper relationships, these rituals can improve overall employee well-being and boost productivity.