Why great teams (should) work hard & play hard

Mabel Turay from iDT Lab’s SME Solutions talks about the company’s end of the month “chill” tradition and how it contributes to team building

It is rare to experience a sense of achievement and professional and personal development at one’s workplace in a short amount of time. It is even rarer to encounter a team which doesn’t just claim to follow the philosophy of equality and teamwork, but practically implements it in the everyday both inside and outside the office. But I have witnessed and felt all of that at iDT Labs.

Here’s my take on how we have accomplished this.

As a team, when we work, we work hard. We dedicate our time, energy, skills and creativity to satisfy our clients’ needs and accomplish our goals. The best part is that every team member is of equal significance and everything we do is led by our belief in being a strong and united team, which is the essence of our company culture. It is the powerhouse that inspires creativity, perseverance and commitment in every individual to contribute to the collective effort to enhance productivity and maintain our competitive edge. When it comes to making decisions regarding the work environment, everyone’s ideas are taken into equal consideration. I remember the time when we had to vote on whether we wanted Jim on our team or not. A colleague had randomly suggested one day that we needed Jim. We debated on the matter and eventually everyone decided that it was going to happen. When Jim finally arrived one morning, I remember seeing two of my colleagues moon-walking and back-flipping into the kitchen with excitement, as we gathered together to welcome Jim. I could go on and on about Jim, but that’s a different story.

Oh, in case you‘re wondering who Jim is, he is our beloved coffee machine.

The chill tradition

Since Jim came we’ve been working harder because of the limitless mugs of coffee. But work is not all we do. Every team in every office works, and they probably work hard. But the success of our team culture doesn’t just come from the daily grind or joining heads in the meeting room. Our team culture has developed from outside of the office as well. On the last Friday of every month, we take part in the chill tradition. We all vote and decide on where we should get together, what we should eat and what activity we should all take part in (this is always an interesting process as people can become quite philosophical in trying to convince everyone about why their idea should be voted for!). I recall the first chill session I participated in. The entire team had gone to the Hub, a popular hotel and restaurant in Freetown. Over dinner I observed with great fascination everyone’s sincere interactions, the questions about each other’s well being, the joking and laughing. I remember going home that evening with the absolute conviction that this was the kind of team I desired to be a part of; the laughter, the honest concern for each other, and the friendship, in the midst of a mutual effort to accomplish something greater.

Since then, each “chill” session has brought me one step closer to a better understanding of my team mates, creating a platform to discover their creative sides independent of their office tasks and responsibilities. Last month, we had a games night at Andra’s(Andra manages our Careers.sl and SME Solutions Units). I can vividly recall the collective WOW when she brought out the big box of video games, making us sound us kids in a candy store. We were soon indulging in the football battles of the century. As if luck was on our CTO’s side, he kept winning each game and the losers kept blaming their controllers! The highlight of the night was the ice-skating competition between our CTO and Andra’s husband. The spectators took sides of course, silently hoping that our CTO would loose. As always, the evening ended very well, with our admin making sure everyone got back safely.

Every team in every office works, and they probably work hard. But the success of our team culture doesn’t just come from the daily grind or joining heads in the meeting room. Our team culture has developed from outside of the office as well.

Why chilling makes us a better team

“All work and no play makes jack a dull boy” rings true when it comes to our team. Besides finding ourselves in a very dynamic industry that requires constant innovation, the iDT team is largely dominated by young and ambitious minds who also value their Friday nights and weekends. Our workplace is like our second home and having fun at work along with doing our regular jobs is essential for psychological growth, enhanced creativity and better performance. Our “chill” tradition has helped me understand my colleagues better, learn more about their hobbies, likes, dislikes and establish a stronger bond. Consequently I have become more confident about communicating my ideas to the team and taking on leadership roles. Including fun may not be among the primary considerations for corporate leaders in Africa when it comes to thinking about team culture. However, the impact of a little collective fun on the performance and productivity of a company can be surprising. Perhaps, what we Africans need, is the re-thinking of our work culture into one that prioritizes not just work but also making sure the team has time to step back to bond, leading to a more productive and cohesive work environment in the long run.

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