Corporate culture used to be about office parties, with drinks and forced conversation, but more workplaces are now moving towards experiential activities that create meaningful connections via socialising, according to Funlab chief people officer, Chelsea Mannix.

“Businesses are seeing the benefits of a happier workplace through team fun and healthy competition. Because of this, employees are expecting more from their employers,” she told Retailbiz in a recent interview.

Often team building and cultural aspects of an office can be overlooked, but it’s important for businesses to remember that employees are the heart of their organisation, and investing in their happiness and team culture is critical for staff retention.

“We know through our own experiences and engagement metrics that creating a mix of formal and informal opportunities for colleagues to socialise is important in driving team cohesion and performance. What better way of doing this than with the addition of competitive bowling or interactive challenge rooms?” Mannix said.

“Creating opportunities for staff to bond outside of the workplace lets employees forge positive workplace relationships with one another. It also has recruitment benefits, because organisations that value team connection and are shown to prioritise culture, attract strong talent.”

Funlab conducted research which found that more than two thirds (68%) of Australians enjoy healthy competition with their colleagues – and that’s what is brought to life at Funlab venues.

“Team building by way of competitive socialising is also a great way to bring people together in a fun, friendly, and collaborative environment. When it comes to our employees, known as ‘Motherfunners’ – a title to highlight our mission to create fun and have fun doing it – we believe in creating a long-term culture and connection to drive staff retention.”

Funlab research also found that almost half of respondents (47%) say they perform better when they’re in a competition – proving that fun outside of work can have positive business impacts. It also creates space for people to collaboratively develop creative ideas in an immersive environment.

“Competitive socialising cuts across barriers, both in terms of teams and reporting. We’ve had many instances of the CFO loosening the tie to cut loose across nine holes of golf, or the team who’s been working remotely, bonding in escape rooms. These varied situations require collaboration and problem solving, but more importantly, the ability to have fun with your colleagues and maybe even test your office friendship,” Mannix said.

“We know employees want and should have greater flexibility. That’s why we have shifted to hybrid working for our office teams – three days in person and flexibility for the rest of the week.

We know people value connection and time together, just as much as cutting their commuting time and having the ability to work from home when they need. We make sure the three days together include fun and play.”

Funlab operates a long-term staff recognition program called ‘motherfunner for life’, where after five years of service, staff are rewarded with unlimited lifetime activities at any of its venues.

“We also encourage, embrace, and support our staff through our policies including our Gender Affirmation Leave allocation, which any Motherfunner can access for five days of paid leave. This alongside our Diversity and Inclusion committees and advocacy allows us to retain our Motherfunners and create a positive work environment.”