The best part about this initiative is that it levels the playing field. No one can make out who is the CEO or who is the canteen guy when we are on the cricket ground. This game binds many of us at Apollo Hospitals together," says Harinder Singh Sidhu, vice-president, corporate development, head of international business, at Apollo Hospitals Group.

The Delhi-based Dr Sidhu, who has been with Apollo Hospitals for more than 11 years, participates in the company’s annual cricket tourney for many reasons. “My love for cricket is one. Then it helps you know your colleagues better in an informal setting, reduces stress, breaks monotony, and enhances physical and mental fitness. I have even started playing on a weekly basis along with a few colleagues," says the captain of his team.

Aware that the healthcare work environment is extremely challenging and presents physical, emotional and psychological stresses, unlike other industries, Apollo Hospitals organizes sporting events at six major centres across the country, including the National Capital Region, in February. Sports like cricket, badminton, football, table tennis, track and field and related athletic events are part of these initiatives. The sporting initiative, which sees about 200 people participating at each centre, started 15 years ago. The events are held either in the hospital premises or at a hired sports facility, depending on the city. To ensure fairness, a sports management committee is set up to draw lots, plan schedules, and arrange logistics.

Ashok Bajpai, managing director, Apollo Hospitals, Delhi, says the entire spectrum of staff—doctors, nurses, allied staff—works “under immense pressure". The aim of such sporting events is to help reduce stress and encourage team building.

Bajpai says the teams start practising three months before the event. “However, there are certain groups who share a love for, say, cricket or badminton. They stay in contact with each other and play every weekend," he says.

Simmy Rajan, learning officer in the training and development department of nursing, who has been with the company since 2006, believes that “team sport activities like cricket and volleyball help us rejuvenate". Delhi-based Rajan, responsible for the recruitment, training, and development of new nurses, says regular sports activities help build stamina and beat stress.

“We have seen that our employees—in any hierarchy—are not afraid to communicate with each other when they play sports with each other. Better communication has led to seamless processes, and a rise in productivity," adds Bajpai.

The employees agree that sport helps boost engagement and team spirit, aids friendly competition, and instils team spirit at the workplace.

“We work in a hospital. Our life is stressful; we are often surrounded by sorrow during our work hours. Connecting over a sporting event does not remove our stress, but helps us handle it better. We are strong and happy, and get better at coordination and team building," says Dr Sidhu.

Rajan says the daily work routine ensures people meet and engage “only with people of their own department". The annual sporting event, on the other hand, brings you face to face with people you don’t know. “There are some people whom I knew on a professional level; during the event, I came to see them as people and learnt what makes them tick, their talents, and more. The competition is friendly," she says.

At Apollo, playing together is also helping heal rifts. Dr Sidhu recalls a “wonderful experience" at the annual cricket tournament that helped resolve one such issue. “There was an employee who was not getting along well with his peers due to some misunderstandings. This strain had been lingering for months. During the tournament, one of the players from his department’s team was injured, leaving them a player short for the semi-final. Knowing that he had played cricket in college, he was approached to join in. Their love for the game made them forget the discomfort around each other. It was great to see that cricket helped mend relationships."

Game On is a series that looks at companies that take their sporting events seriously and how this helps build team spirit.

Close