No, the “F” doesn’t stand for “Federal”, or “Financial”, or even any other “F” words we may encounter in our line of work on a daily basis, but represents a more underrated “F” word not often associated with what most think about the financial aid process…Fun.
One of the last words that comes to mind when creating an FSA ID or denying a financial aid appeal is “fun” which is why the concept of incorporating more fun into the office is that much more important. We all know that in the financial aid world the amount of times that we are not busy or gearing up for a new aid year happens only one week a semester and most of the time half the staff is on vacation that week and that leaves you, to be busy. This constant feeling of “busy”, paired with the mountains of monotonous processing and intermittent angry student de-escalation can start to take a toll on even the most experienced Financial Aid employee, which is why mixing in a little fun can make all the difference.
Fun doesn’t have to be expensive and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be viewed as unprofessional. It can be argued that it is a distraction from one’s work and to that I say, “Exactly!” We all need a little distraction, a little bit of fun to lighten the mood, release tension, and a put a smile on our face. Did you know that more fun in the workplace could actually lead to increased morale, less sick leave taken, and even increase productivity? No? That is because you’re not having enough fun!
Something that I have found to be effective is doing one specific fun-related activity a month. This is enough to re-spark creativity, but isn’t too much that it begins to detract from work and is no longer a special treat. Special events, like birthdays or end of the year celebrations, or even holidays are great themes for a little fun. Below are some examples of fun that I have either personally created, participated in, or witnessed in other offices that can easily be adjusted to fit your financial aid office:
-Valentine’s Day Bags: get paper bags, markers, stickers, etc. and decorate Valentine’s Day bags. Do it up old school and have everyone bring in cards or treats to deposit on Valentine’s Day. Make it personal by replacing cards with hand-written personal notes to each employee regarding what you like or admire about them.
-Guess Jars: fill a clear container with a certain type of candy and have everyone submit guesses to how many are in it. Closest guesser wins. Add a little surprise by hiding an even better treat (gift card, silly toy, etc.) in the middle.
-Easter Egg Hunt: get a bag of plastic eggs, fill them with treats, label them with names to ensure everyone gets the same amount, and hide them around the office/cubicles one night for everyone to hunt for in the morning.
– Pumpkin Decorating Contest: purchase some little pumpkins during fall and either provide limited decorating options or open it up to “anything goes” for decorating the pumpkins. They don’t even have to be Halloween-themed at all. You can even open it up to other departments for votes.
-Homecoming Decorating: whether you get multiple departments involved for a competition or just decorate as an office, it always lightens the mood to have a little school spirit.
-Minute to Win-It Games: These are a Christmas favorite since their website has a lot of Christmas-themed games and all games require things you can usually find within your house.
-Office Olympics: This one can be done with multiple departments or just in-office. Teams of 4 pick team names (or every man for himself), compete in various office “Olympic” games such as paper basket toss (as many paper balls you can get into a recycling bin in a set amount of time), paper airplane toss (each get two pieces of paper to make paper airplanes and longest distance wins), longest paperclip chain in 1 minute, etc. and a grand finale relay race including staple removing and stamping a document, placing it into an inter-office envelope, sealing it, labeling it, and placed on the head of a player who must race down and back in their office chair without it falling from their head. Awards are bronze, silver, and gold medals (printed or colored paper medals/yogurt lids with paperclip lanyard). Could have an overall winner trophy made from various old and unwanted office supplies or the classic stapler in a Jell-o mold.
-End of the Year Parties: these were initially created for end of the year work-study appreciation, but morphed into full office staff fun. It is always best to have a theme, a prize, and some food. Past themes have included:
- Picture Scavenger Hunt: Teams of two compete against each other to get as many pictures taken of items on their list in the time allotted. Student wearing clothing with school logo/name, school president, with the mascot, etc. You can really personalize the list to your school making sure to put significant offices, people, and places on your campus.
- Amazing Race: Teams of two compete against each other to follow sets of clues across campus. First to collect all the clues and return to the designated spot, wins. This requires a little setup beforehand, but the payoff is totally worth it.
- Capture: This is almost like a giant game of hide and seek, mixed with tag. Teams of two are selected and either assigned or choose their team color that they must dress in the day of the game. Straws are drawn before the game to designate a “hunt” team which means they will be the seekers or the “capturers” and all other teams are the prey. At the start of the game, all teams except for the hunter set out in all different directions on campus. They all have a timer set for 5-10 minutes, after which the game begins. It is then the job of the hunters to “capture” as many teams as possible. (You can designate being captured by either being “tagged” by the hunters or utilize matching colored bandanas as flags, like in flag-football). You can decide on how long you want the game to go, how many teams have to be captured before the hunters win, who to award prizes to, etc.
- Hunger Games: This one was done outside of work, but was SO much fun. Water guns and Nerf weapons were acquired from staff and dollar store. A park area was utilized as the cornucopia where all “weapons” were placed and all race to acquire them and get the other players out. Getting hit by a nerf arrow or sprayed with water kicks you out of the round. A few rounds followed by a BBQ was a great way to end the day.
Activities don’t have to be elaborate to be fun. Find what works for your office, your space, and your time, but always make time for a little fun. And remember, you’re never too old or too high up the chain of command to participate!
Brought to you by:
Ashlee Dutton, Pikes Peak Community College