Far from Hunger Games, the UAE government and many big businesses are betting on corporate sports being the new “happy games”, with the return of the Zurich Corporate Touch 6s and the Abu Dhabi Corporate Games this month.
“Over the last couple of years there has been a fantastic effort from employees, companies and the government to get the nation fitter,” says Benoit Montin, the managing director of Corporate Games.
“With the economic state and current price of oil, lots of companies have had to reduce costs – often the first thing to be cut is corporate well-being. But it is imperative companies understand the importance of these activities.”
Mr Montin adds that a cohesive, engaged workforce that is provided opportunities to play sport and stay fit has been proven to take fewer sick days, be more productive and help a company lower its staff turnover.
The fourth edition of the Games takes place on March 25 and 26 at Abu Dhabi Zayed Sports City. Among the teams are 200 staff from Aldar Properties and 100 from Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank.
The Zurich Corporate Touch 6s has also grown in the five years it has been running, from eight teams to 22 at last week’s event, which featured both a men’s and a mixed team tournament.
“An event such as this ticks many boxes, not just in relation to healthy living – it’s also great for team-building, especially in the UAE, where offices are particularly multicultural,” says Jane Sabugueiro, one of the organisers.
“Various government-led initiatives show how seriously the UAE takes health habits. When du started its Every Step Counts campaign, it was directly related to Sheikh Mohammed’s vision to adopt ‘positive energy’.”
Guy Arguin is HR director for the engineering consultancy Atkins, which employs 1,000 staff in the UAE and took part in the Corporate Touch 6s.
“We have an important duty of care to staff; a high proportion are living and working away from their homelands,” he says. Atkins, which entered the tournament for the first time this year, won the mixed tournament.
“We’re investing in happier and more engaged staff; if we want to attract and retain the very best talent, we need a great working environment with strong community spirit. Health and well-being are an essential part of that jigsaw.”
q&a sick leaves not an option
Suzanne Locke expands on the rise of corporate sports tournaments:
What are the Zurich Touch 6s – and what’s touch rugby?
The tournament took place at the beginning of March in Jebel Ali, Dubai, with companies such as Cluttons, DP World and DHL, as well as Atkins, competing. Touch rugby is a minimal contact sport combining rugby league and union with basketball, with no tackling, scrums or kicking.
What sports are included in the Corporate Games?
Activities include football, beach volleyball, cricket, golf, basketball, dragon boat, karting and shooting. There are seven ladies-only games, including shooting and basketball. Worldwide, over one million participants from 26,000 companies have played more than 70 sports in 60 cities since the Games first ran in 1988. Deloitte have entered more than 80 Games worldwide, Ernst & Young and IBM 70 and KPMG and PWC some 60.
What are the benefits for companies?
“Healthy, happy staff are also more motivated and productive,” says Guy Arguin, HR director for Atkins. “Not only that, but they take less time off sick and visit the doctor less, so insurance premiums are lower.”
But it’s not an instant solution to reduce sick leaves?
“It isn’t an overnight quick fix,” Benoit Montin of Corporate Games, “but any company actively involved in this type of employee wellness programme will benefit.”
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter