My trip to Dubai, last month, has been an interesting time of meeting new business people, catching up with some ‘oldies' and delivering boardroom briefings to companies who want to know how to better manage, or minimise, stress in the workplace.
From these meetings, there is one that really caught my imagination. My meeting with Prasanth Edassari, Associate Director and Head of Panasonic's L&D in Dubai and his colleague Milburn Andrade, at their offices in Jebel Ali Free Zone, really opened my eyes to what should, in my opinion, be considered an excellent corporate model for business team bonding.
At the end of our very enjoyable meeting, Edassari said that they were leaving for their eco-lunch, and I asked him exactly what that meant.
Well in simple terms, this is a time when everyone apparently gets together and eats food from different countries which is cooked completely organically.
In addition to this, all employees receive an e-mail on how to cook organic food as part of the company's awareness programme. Edassari told me that usually, a member of each team prepares the food for their entire department, and others take turns every month.
I asked him if the whole organisation gets involved and he told me that they do and everyone closes down their work areas and gathers in the garden [weather permitting] to have lunch together.
I asked, "Does this succeed in making a community atmosphere where everyone participates in the social activity?" Edassari assured me that it creates a feeling of ‘oneness' where people sit together and enjoy each other's cuisines.
On hearing this, I was completely ‘hooked'. "Was there good conversation around the table?" I asked. "Of course," he confirmed. "During these social sessions, we forget business and ideally talk about green initiatives and the like. It is a good opportunity to converse and make time for each other... A wonderful way of inducting new staff and workers into a business but in an informal manner. People talk about life outside of the business: their families, their children, where they live, who cooks at home, etc." In fact, just old-fashioned conversation (When, dear reader, was the last time you indulged in relaxed, social conversation with your colleagues?).
One for nature
Edassari then continued to tell me that apart from their monthly eco-lunch, they have get-togethers for anyone celebrating an occasion, which includes the cutting of a cake and the planting of saplings by each celebrant, in their garden, as a contribution to nature.
And every December, they have a one-week event where snacks, tea and coffee are served to all staff from 3-4pm, which is followed by mini-soccer leagues which includes the senior management members too.
At Panasonic's local operation in Dubai, I am told there are many different ethnic nationalities who all learn to respect each other's values, beliefs, rituals and festivals.
This helps everyone bridge cultural gaps and work collectively for the common goal of creating ‘Better Ideas for Life' — Panasonic's brand slogan.
The lesson? Within the frenetic pace of life in which we all live, here are a group of business people who are encouraged to:
• Make time for each other.
• Respect and value each other's cultural differences.
• Think and act positively regarding the environment.
• Help everyone to feel valued and recognised.
And, by the way, I don't have any shares in Panasonic, but I would rather like to have a job there in order to get invited to an eco-lunch — and even have a piece of cake on my birthday!
Key points: How will it help?
- An understanding of cultural differences is essential.
- Team building is helped by social intercourse.
- Care for the environment and it will care for you.
- The author is a BBC guest-broadcaster and Motivational Speaker. She is CEO of an international stress management and employee wellbeing consultancy based in London. Contact carolespiersgroup.co.uk for proven stress strategies.