Cover Story

The Fun Factor

Good for you and the bottom line

Happier employees are more productive. That was the key finding of a study conducted by the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy in 2015.

700 randomly-selected individuals were firstly given ‘happiness shocks’ – shown a 10-minute comedy clip, given a snack or a drink. After confirming that their spirits had been raised, researchers gave them tasks to measure their productivity. The results were impressive – productivity increased by an average of 12% compared to the control group and by as much as 20% in some cases.

Daniel Sgroi, Associate Professor in the University’s Department of Economics and author of the report, says: “Private sector firms cannot ignore potential productivity gains in the current economic climate.”

Other studies back up Sgroi’s findings with some reporting that more than 80% of employees say a fun workplace makes them perform better.

Healthy attitude

Happy employees are healthier – and that means fewer days off work. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, there is a wealth of scientific literature that details how negative emotions take their toll on the body. Sustained stress or fear can eventually lead to illnesses like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

On the other hand, telling a joke or having a good belly laugh helps counter negative emotions, even at times of great stress. It releases serotonin, a chemical which boosts brain power and focus, reduces tension and increases resilience.

And yet it is estimated that only about one-third of us engage our sense of humour at work. Why? Some may fear that cracking a joke might be unprofessional or not focused on the task at hand. Others claim they simply have no time for frivolity or the funds for fun.

Get creative

Albert Einstein is credited with saying that “creativity is intelligence having fun”. And if one of the greatest minds of the 20th century said so, who are we to argue?

It’s a thought worth considering when we look at GAC’s response to the challenges of our times, with the Delta 21 strategy focusing on VUCA (Velocity, Unorthodoxy, Collaboration, Awareness). Having fun – and the creativity it awakens – can be a key in delivering the ‘U’ and the ‘C’ in VUCA.

Workers spend about 65% of their time collaborating and communicating with others. Enjoying time with colleagues in a relaxed and fun environment encourages honest and open discussion, as well as mutual trust. Having fun together is a great way to learn about each other and develop habits and rules that aid understanding.

That’s why team building exercises are designed to be fun.

A sense of belonging

Patrik Halldén, GAC’s Group Vice President – Human Resources, says a manager who creates an open, healthy and fun work environment with a strong team spirit is more than half way to success.

“As a rule, people want to belong and to feel that they are contributing,” he adds. “Encouraging that in a positive, fun work environment is key. A climate in which people spend more time talking to each other – and less time talking about each other – can only be a good thing.

“Happy individuals and teams, and the contribution they make, are noticed - within a department, at company level, or throughout a group of companies. More importantly, they are noticed by customers.”

Fun doesn’t have to be frivolous. Incorporated strategically, it can have a positive impact on the bottom line.

“Focusing on the good isn’t just about overcoming our inner grump to see the glass half full,” says Shawn Achor, happiness psychology expert and author of ‘The Happiness Advantage’. “It’s about opening our minds to the ideas and opportunities that will help us be more productive, effective and successful at work and in life.”

Happy people stay

Contented, engaged staff are more likely to stay with the company. The unhappy and disengaged will naturally be on the look-out for something new. If you value your colleagues, it’s in your interests to help them raise a genuine smile at least once every working day.

Fun At Work

GAC South Africa 03

GAC South Africa

“Look after your staff, and they will look after you.” Hard work, laughter and fun is what motivates staff at GAC Shipping in South Africa: from themed dress-ups and meals, braais (barbecues) to sailing trips and inter-office competitions with GAC Laser and GAC Africa’s Regional Office.

Dubai Dash

GAC Dubai MD Ronald Lichtenecker congratulates Salifu Jammeh after he emerged as the overall winner in the company’s fifth annual Dubai Dash. Salifu was among 40 GAC Dubai folk who laced up their running shoes for the event. Others included Denny Kutty, who finished first in the veterans’ category, and Mujtaba Ahmed who won the fun run.

Dubai Dash


Staff at GAC UK’s Leith branch left their Manager Colin McPhee in no doubt that they were happy to see him back after his vacation. He walked into his office filled to waist height with colourful balloons.

GAC Sri Lanka bowling tournament 03

GAC Sri Lanka bowling tournament

135 staff from the GAC Sri Lanka group of companies came together in a spirit of friendly competition for the company’s bowling tournament. Team “Ball Breakers” beat 15 other teams to claim the trophy, and the top 15 players went on to represent GAC in the Bowl-A-Thon organised by the Ceylon Association of Ship Agents.

Karely Birthday Hub

Birthdays are a big deal for GAC’s North America Global Hub Services team in Houston. Whenever it’s time to blow out the candles on a colleague’s cake, Business Manager Karely Martinez and her six hub coordinators make sure that their desk is decorated for the occasion. Karely is no exception, as you can see from the colourful sight that welcomed her on her birthday.

“It’s a small but very human gesture that brings us closer together as a team,” she says. “We spend more time at work than we do at home so it makes the time spent in the office a lot easier if we all get along.”

Karely Birthday Hub
Dubai Sports Day - Throw ball

Dubai Sports Day

More than 450 staff from GAC Dubai Contract Logistics joined in the fun for some friendly inter-departmental competition at their annual Sports Day. It is just one of many staff events outside of working hours organised by the Welfare Committee, with the support and sponsorship of company management. Others include friendly competition between departments’ cricket, football and bowling teams as well as regular activities like Zumba and badminton.

Welfare Committee member Manoj Kuriakose says such activities help keep colleagues fit and active, boost morale and productivity, improve team spirit and job satisfaction and lead to better communications between colleagues. The company benefits from a healthier, happier workforce leading to fewer days lost, lower turnover and better staff-management relations. It also promotes GAC’s reputation as a company people want to work for.

Dubai Sports Day - Bat

Shanghai get-away

Staff from Shanghai got away for a weekend of team building and bonding.

Shanghai get-away 01


Fun is combined with fitness at many of the activities planned for staff at GAC Bahrain, including a Fitbit challenge, competitive planking and dead-hangs, football, the 365-days push-up challenge and arm wrestling.

Bahrain Collage
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