The importance of Sports in developing a healthy company culture

Here's how companies keep their employees engaged with sports activities

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Sports and games have always been an integral part of the culture of organisations. Private-sector companies as well as public-sector undertakings have always actively indulged in sports competitions, both within the company and between companies, to drive employee engagement even while bolstering their company’s culture.

Ashwin Shirali, former VP – talent and culture, India and South Asia, Accor, deems sports as one of the most tried and tested team-building exercises a company can implement.

“People realise that combined effort is required to win a game and that they all have to pitch in and work together. This, in turn, facilitates the building of strong bonds that translate to the workspace quite well,” he claims.

Shirali further adds that cultural engagement and emotional bonding attained on combining fun and work fosters a long-lasting hospitable work culture.

Describing the importance of sports in the hospitality industry, Shirali informs us that, before the pandemic, all hotels used to participate in annual inter-hotel cricketing tournaments, where employees got an opportunity to represent their respective organisations in a solid competition.

“People realise that combined effort is required to win a game and that they all have to pitch in and work together. This, in turn, facilitates the building of strong bonds that translate to the workspace quite well”

Ashwin Shirali, former VP – talent and culture

He says that annual HR meetings were a regular feature, where several hotels participated to discuss the inter-brand sporting events that were to take place in the upcoming year. “Such events played a crucial role in bridging gaps in competitive environs. The fun lay in performing and playing with one another at a neutral venue, creating better relations in the process,” points out.

For such events, cricket was the chosen and most popular sport. After all, it is a sport that gets most Indians naturally involved.

Fitness levels across larger teams are not necessarily high, and cricket does not really demand high levels of fitness. The game doesn’t overtax the body, but at the same time, provides all-round fun.

Shailesh Singh, CPO, Max Life Insurance, actively devotes his time to the sport of badminton. He admits that the role the sport plays in maintaining his health is incomparable, especially now more than ever, when it has become more important to incorporate sports into one’s lifestyle.

However, due to a lack of government support and inavailability of required infrastructure throughout the pandemic, sports had to take a back seat within organisations.

“While groups of employees still went out for bike rides, whenever the situation allowed during the pandemic, the serious pursuit of sports within companies has only restarted now”

Shailesh Singh, CPO, Max Life Insurance

“While groups of employees still went out for bike rides, whenever the situation allowed during the pandemic, the serious pursuit of sports within companies has only restarted now. We hope to get things back in full swing by next year,” Singh shares

Singh tells HRKatha that Max has its own cricket team, which actively participates in inter-company competitions. “At Max, employees pursue sports of their liking in affinity groups. There exist affinity groups for other activities such as biking, cooking, and music as well. We encourage our employees to pursue their interests within the company to foster a better work-life balance for them,” he explains.

The HR at Max has an annual off-site meeting to draw up a plan for employees to pursue activities of their interest throughout the year. This off-site meeting was discontinued during the pandemic, since sports and various other activities had to be suspended.

Viekas Khoka, head of human resources, Dhanuka Agritech, shares that during the pandemic and now, the trend in inter- and intra-company sports has changed significantly. Pre-pandemic, when Khoka was working with Airtel, such events were of great importance to the company culture, because in larger companies, such as Airtel, one doesn’t necessarily get a chance to bond with colleagues outside of one’s team.

“During the pandemic, companies couldn’t do anything about sports activities despite budget allocations”

Viekas Khoka, head of human resources, Dhanuka Agritech

An annual cricket competition was organised and a big budget was allocated for the same. Now, since the pandemic has disrupted the scope of physical interactions with the game, sports, like everything else, has gone online. “During the pandemic, companies couldn’t do anything about sports activities despite budget allocations.

Games had to be moved online, where people played with colleagues on specific e-platforms. However, online games do not necessarily give the same amount of engagement levels that physical sports do,” Khoka says.

Therefore, Dhanuka, like many other companies, will work to get sports back on the ground as soon as possible and use their benefits to foster a more equitable work culture, in the traditional fun way!

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