Last month, my friend and neighbour approached me, brandishing a new badminton racket. She showed it off excitedly revealing that she had paid more than Rs 2000 for the same. What made her go for such an expensive racket I asked when we were managing perfectly well with our local rackets that cost one fourth of the sum. Apparently, her colleagues at work had advised her to invest in a good racket. In the few weeks that the staff at her office had taken to playing badminton in the parking lot every day, she had realised that she was quite a weak player—almost a novice. She shared that the daily sessions in the parking lot had become an obsession and the short matches rather competitive. She found herself looking forward to the energizing and enlightening matches that also made her feel so good about herself. She was an eager learner and shared the tips she received from her experienced colleagues with us, her neighbours and friends, when we met for our evening round of badminton in the colony.
The enthusiasm was rather infectious. As the sessions became more intensive and competitive, the colleagues began to travel a distance of up to 15 kilometres every weekend to meet at a sports club to train in a proper court. Each of them was willing to wake up early even on a Saturday and drive down to the court to smash it out, sometimes with their children and spouses in tow. My friend herself had become so passionate about these matches and so keen to improve her performance that she was more than willing to play with us in the evenings too, just to build her stamina. Just a simple half an hour session that began in the parking lot of an office had managed to benefit not just the immediate families of the employees but so many others miles away.
There are numerous offices out there that emphasise a lot on sports. And it is a good thing too, with employee health and wellness increasingly becoming the focus for most organisations across the globe.
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Gone are the days when organisations held team-building exercises to develop a spirit of team work amongst the employees. In fact, not long ago, a research by Citrix, a global software company had revealed that employees actually dislike such team-building activities as they often come across as rather patronising and even outdated.
On the other hand, people never really tire of sports, in any form. If anything, a sport only infuses energy and enthusiasm into those playing it. It is also an indirect way of ensuring that the employees indulge in some physical exercise and remain engaged.
As employers, you must find out what your employees are passionate about, especially in the field of sports. If your team members love to play cricket, football or badminton, try and integrate these sports into the workplace. Form teams and organise matches—inter-team or inter-departmental.
Sports events or matches, present an excellent opportunity to the employees to bond outside of work. Even people who do not get along well inside the office team up and forget their individual differences on the field or the court.
Such matches help to level the playing field. Even very senior executives may be playing alongside the juniors, runners or peons.
The Apollo Hospitals Group, for instance, has had such sporting initiatives for its employees for more than a decade now. It organises sporting events at six major centres across India. Badminton, cricket, table tennis and football matches as well as other athletic events are organised wherein over 200 employees participate annually, at each centre. The Group has experienced high levels of productivity since the launch of the programme. It is the best way to help the hospital employees—doctors, nurses, attendants and allied staff—who work in a high-pressure environment day in and day out— release stress. It builds their stamina and helps them tackle pressure.
The employees who are unable to interact with each other casually during work, are able to communicate freely on the field, during a match or sports event. This helps them bond well and leads to seamless communication, which results in higher productivity in the long run.
Most corporates in the country are realising the significance of informal interaction amongst employees beyond work. They are also aware of the importance of their employees’ mental and physical well-being. And the best way to address both is to hold regular sports events.
In addition to sports tournaments, organisations such as RMSI have made activities, such as music band, photography club, painting, theatre, film-making, guitar classes, and zumba lessons a part of their culture. At Hindustan Lever, the employees spend quality time at the library and also get to attend yoga classes. Bharti Airtel offers fitness and spa facilities among other benefits, whereas Kotak Mahindra organises family days every year, and also movie screenings to help the workforce relax.
A relaxed and healthy employee usually goes home to a relaxed and healthy family. This means, at least three happy and healthy individuals. If each of your mentally and physically fit employees ensures the mental and physical health of her/his family, imagine what your whole workforce can achieve?