Five reasons to have a company sports team
September 2023   HEALTHCARE

Five reasons to have a company sports team

Successful companies recognise that sport is one of the most powerful tools they can use to bring teams members together, grow company culture and ultimately increase performance, all while keeping their workforce healthy. Here are five key reasons why companies should embrace sport in the workplace.
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Back in the late 19th century, the behemoth we now know as Manchester United began life as Newton Heath, a side made up of a group of employees from Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. Works teams such as these were commonplace at that time; in Europe many famous football clubs, including West Ham, Atletico Madrid and PSV developed from works teams, while countless Japanese football and rugby sides began life in the factory. Playing sport was recognised as a chance for colleagues to exercise and enjoy themselves together, and in the modern world of work companies have continued to recognise the benefits, not just in keeping them fit and healthy but also the inimitable power of sport to unite people regardless of background, race, gender or identity. In this article we discuss five key reasons to have a workplace sports team and why companies should get involved.

Keeping fit

A workforce that is healthy in body and mind is clearly a huge advantage to any business, encouraging sport is one of the easiest ways to do that. “People often lose the thrill of sporting competition once they come out of full-time education,” explains Doug White, Games Director of UK Corporate Games, the world's largest multisport festivals for businesses. “It’s really difficult when you get stuck into the working environment to get back into sporting activity. But it’s a fact that everyone feels better once they exercise - you can feel down, you go and have a workout or play sport, and all of a sudden, your heads clear again. It does a lot for your mental health and your well-being.”

Not only that, but unhealthy employees cost a lot of money – every year, it cost US employers $575 billion1. Encouraging employees to take part in sport is therefore a worthy investment for companies, and the togetherness that comes from participating alongside colleagues can help people to get started. “Not everybody in an organisation is into health and well-being, but there’s certain sports we’ve got that make it very inclusive,” continues Doug. “We had one company entering a team to our Games of around 100 and see it as a really good opportunity to encourage people to get fit. They are doing a couch-to-5k with a view for their first 5k to be at the Games. It’s a real personal achievement that people, who three or four months ago weren’t active, are now competing with their colleagues in a 5k event, which will help them enjoy it and stay active.”

Women celebrating while practicing sports

Fun gets work done

For most people being part of a sports team is simply a chance to have fun, both on the pitch and in the bar afterwards. Playing sport is a sure-fire way of boosting happiness at work; a recent survey showed that 94% of employees who do sport at work are happy2.

This is a very important emotion to create in the workplace, proven to have a positive impact on employee engagement, creativity and purpose, which helps to reduce employee turnover3. A sports team will not only help to engender more emotionally invested employees, it will also save you time and money in recruitment costs to replace them. On a similar note, advertising the sporting opportunities the company offers employees might help to attract new talent to the business. 

Grow company culture

The dividends for building a strong company culture are untold, and sport is one of the most powerful mechanisms to do so. Business, just like sport, is in many ways a competition, and the values that create success in the former are also needed for the latter. Crucially, sport teaches the value of combined effort to achieve goals.

“When you talk to organisations about team building and how they are promoting wellness, some will do a couple of box-ticking exercises,” explains Doug, “but it’s not until they get involved and see what an effect that sport has on their staff in terms of morale and integrating staff from various offices around the country that they realise the positive effect.”

Sport can also act as a way to integrate new employees into the company culture, both by drawing people together and by disseminating the company values through the sport itself. In a recent survey, 87% of people said that sport and exercise makes it easier to settle into a new company4.

Women smiling while running

Break down department barriers

If you work in a large company, it’s very likely you rarely interact with people outside of your team or department; this is exactly where can sport can step in. Rather than once a year at the Christmas party or a happy hour here and there, meeting up for a kick about is a much healthier and more sustainable way of socialising, with less pressure on those who don’t drink. Perhaps your company is big enough to have a team from each department or mix and match from each department – what a great way to integrate, help to further build a community feel in the company and aid any future business dealings with each other. 

Making friends

Getting involved in new sports, competing alongside others and socialising with colleagues outside the office environment are all huge benefits of a workplace sports team that creates an environment to build new friendships. Doug has seen this countless times over at the Corporate Games: “Some teams don't know each other when they arrive, and we had one team who said they arrived as strangers and left as friends. They spent a week in a team together, they compete together, and they build relationships from there.” 

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4.     (see reference 3)

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