In the name of team building and camaraderie, some companies enter dodgeball competitions. Some form teams for a city wiffle ball league. (We tried that once—it did not go well.) Some companies golf for charity, surely.
At Mostly Serious, we play bingo.
It's not a novel idea. Plenty of workplaces play bingo with varying degrees of success and enthusiasm. But I've been part of the Mostly Serious team for nearly five years and our bingo playing has been a constant that everyone has a stake in. We all relish inventing highly specific squares about and for each other as much as we love playing the game itself.
This post is one half definitive guide to setting up your own office bingo and one half explanation of why our take on bingo—such a simple, silly thing that embraces our oddities—makes our company culture better.
The Technical Execution of Office Bingo
First of all, the way we conduct bingo business around here warrants explanation.
The hardest part of bingo is putting the boards together, but if you have a small- to mid-sized team or department, the team building benefits far outweigh the hour or two spent prepping the boards. Make it easy on yourself and ask your office's version of Leslie Knope to make the boards. They'll be ready by the end of the day.
Before our incredible engineers built our proprietary bingo-generating program (God bless them), I spent years cobbling together bingo boards through an online generator. I'd keep a list of all our ongoing bingo squares in a Google spreadsheet, then copy and paste them into the generator. And guess what? I made a templated version of that spreadsheet for you to use. You'll find it at the bottom of this post.
Anyway, here's our current bingo gameplay in three steps:
- We print each person's bingo boards and pass them out. Each team member's specific-to-them bingo squares are omitted so they can't cheat. (But cheating by way of coercion still happens. We're not perfect people and we don't claim to be.)
- We call each bingo square in our #bingo Slack channel. Squares can be challenged or group-vetoed because this 👏🏼 is 👏🏼 a 👏🏼 democracy👏🏼.
- When someone has a bingo, they've won the game as long as they call it in the Slack channel. The boards are unceremoniously thrown away. The bingo trophy* is snatched from the previous bingo winner's desk and given to the new winner.
*We got a custom bingo trophy made because all good things in life deserve to have their own trophy.
That's how our bingo is executed on a technical level—and that's all it takes to reap those sweet, sweet bingo benefits. If your workplace doesn't use Slack, dreaming up your own way to share bingo developments will be half the fun.
When we're feeling stretched thin, bingo shakes things up a little.
If you're at all familiar with Mostly Serious, you can safely (and correctly) guess that we're a pretty fun-loving group. Our dogs hang out at the office on steady rotation. We plan regular outings to throw tomahawks, see movies, and play lawn games together. It's common to hear explosive laughter coming from our conference rooms during client meetings. We love having fun because we work insanely hard—with exhaustive integrity and devotion—until the job is done to our standards. But just like any other workplace, we get stressed out. We worry about tasks and timelines. We disagree with each other. Sometimes we just have days that kind of suck.
No matter how many meetings we have on the docket or the state of our workload, we all welcome the hilarity and conversation that lights up our #bingo Slack channel on any given day. In a way, it soothes the company soul.
Bingo makes new team members feel more at home.
We've learned over the years that our office bingo is an easy way to get new team members into the mix without making it feel forced. By adding a bingo square that reads something like Someone learns a new fact about Janice (name made up — I've never actually met a real Janice), a small nugget of intel learned about the newbie gets shared with everyone. This little technique is how we learned Becca's beverage of choice is hot water. And that Chelsea has an insatiable sweet tooth that means she's always down for an Andy's Frozen Custard run.
When we start to pick up on each team member's quirks, habits, and catchphrases, those get added to the bingo board, too. Everyone at Mostly Serious has a handful of specific-to-them bingo squares that capture their wonderfully weird human essence.
Our bingo boards are a force for good—and never at the expense of others.
There is one crucial rule of Mostly Serious office bingo. It’s not, nor will it ever be, a way for us to call each other down or talk shit on others. Neither of those things reflects the kind of company we are. That’s why the official bingo square maker has to be someone empathetic enough to tell the difference between good-natured ribbing and an observation that can come across as inconsiderate—or worse, cruel.
Besides, being a conscientious bingo maker can still leave plenty of room for inside jokes and everyone's-in-on-it anecdotes that encapsulate your company’s culture. (And there's nothing like the thrill of discovering a new bingo square.) One of my personal favorites at Mostly Serious is a square that reads The office printer pulls some bullshit. It gets marked off every time we play.
Seriously, every time. Nobody likes the printer.
Want to get bingo going at your office?
We figured you would, so we made a free bingo square keeper that you can copy and customize for your company. Download it here.