At the opening ceremony for Snagajob’s annual Office Olympics, representatives of different nations cheerfully parade through the event grounds (a parking lot) in colorful costumes (T-shirts, mostly) and wow spectators with (loosely) choreographed dances designed to rally enthusiasm for the contests of skill and shamelessness that will follow. This year, Egypt’s team dressed as mummies. Belize showed up in grass skirts and inner tubes. North Korea wore drab, military-style outfits and marched obediently in perfect formation. Ireland? They made a memorable entrance with live sheep. “We also dressed in IRA garb and carried rifles,” says Greg Moyer, chief people officer at Snagajob, a Richmond (Va.)-based hiring company. “And of course we had to do a little drinking.”
Snagajob’s Olympics feature neither athletes nor citizens of the countries they have decided to represent. The games they play during the tournament—trashcan basketball, desk-chair soccer, and paper-ball curling—are significantly easier and look like much more fun. “We try to get people who don’t work together on the same team,” says Moyer. “It’s a way for Snagajob to improve relationships and communication.” Besides, company morale improves whenever employees are allowed to throw office supplies.
A number of Olympics-themed competitions have cropped up this year, as employers capitalize on the excitement surrounding the 2012 London Games—or, quite possibly, pay homage to the 1983 film Mr. Mom and the U.S. version of The Office, both of which feature Office Olympics plotlines. In Britain several corporate event planners have started offering Olympics-themed packages. And in the U.S., everyone from software companies to product-development firms has hosted multi-sport tournaments in which winners are awarded fake medals at the end.
“The Olympics idea came from a couple of our employees,” says Chris Massot, vice president of sales at Synapse, a 200-person product-development company that has offices in Seattle, San Francisco, and Hong Kong. “We hold a lot of fun events here—probably one every couple of weeks—and we wanted to do one that tapped into the buzz around the real Olympics as they’re going on.”
Synapse plans to launch its competition on Aug. 2. The schedule has yet to be finalized, but so far there are plans for synchronized wall climbing, beer-bottle relay, and Nerf gun contests. Employees will be able to watch the London Games on the company’s big-screen TVs. And there will be a closing ceremony, tentatively scheduled to take place during the real closing ceremony, with prizes awarded to the winners. Massot doesn’t yet know what the prizes will be. “We formed an Olympic Committee to figure all this stuff out,” he says.
Article by Claire Suddath on July 12, 2012, Bloomberg Businessweek, Section: Lifestyle