Workfam is on a mission to foster a happy, healthy, highly-engaged workforce, all while helping the beleaguered fitness and wellness sector in Dubai to recover from the pandemic shutdown.
“We act as an extended arm of HR,” says Cameron Collins, founder and CEO of the new start-up. “We secure the best possible discounts, upload them on to our platform and make it super-easy for any employee to initiate a team-building activity on behalf of their organization.
“The health and wellness industry in Dubai is struggling to stay afloat. Workfam is offering those businesses, of all shapes and sizes, a marketing channel – a way to promote their services, target corporate clients and individuals who are interested in those services and boost footfall, all free of charge, and at the same time, encourage good health and wellness within your company workforce. “
The choice of activities on offer ranges widely, from football to flower-arranging and pottery to public speaking.
Collins, 28, who was born in South Africa but has spent most of the last 20 years in Dubai, launched Workfam in January 2018. The idea for the start-up came to him when he 28 and studying for his MBA in Madrid after working for a large multinational.
At business school he focused on entrepreneurship and in his research he found that when colleagues socialize, the result is a happier, more productive workplace.
“Sixty percent of people believe it created a better environment, 57 percent felt happier and 50 percent were more motivated when their colleagues were also their friends. So that got me thinking about how you go about creating a work family rather than a work force.”
Hence Workfam, the name he chose for his start-up, because it moves away from the connotations of aggression in the term “workforce.”
“The natural way to connect people is through shared interests,” says Collins. “The trouble with the usual kind of team-building activity is that it’s not tailor-made. Either an organization takes employees off to a hotel for a couple of days once a year, or they organize something once every quarter, but it’s just for the team in one department and they don’t get to mix with people in other sections.The problem with that is maybe only half in that team will like the activity, 25 percent will not be fit enough to take part and 25 percent will be indifferent because they’d rather be doing something else.
“Our solution puts the power back in the hands of the employee. We say, you select the date, the time and the activity and our unique matching algorithm actually suggests like-minded colleagues, so you can invite them and start to connect organically with little or no HR or business leader intervention.
The benefits of connection between employees go far beyond improving their social lives, says Collins.
“When employees connect, they are more likely to share best practices and come up with creative solutions and unique ideas for their business.”
The response from the business world so far has been very positive, he adds. Majid Al Futtaim, a corporation with 42,000 employees in 18 countries, recently used Workfam to plan and promote a Virtual Wellness Week and track attendance.
For the moment, most of the company’s services are centered on Dubai but Collins hopes to expand into Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman. In the first three months of operating, he noticed HR managers in Egypt and Oman were using the Workfam platform to organize internal events.
To date, Workfam has secured more than 200 discounts with 70 wellness facilities, falling broadly into six categories: sports, health and wellness, art and culture, adventures, knowledge and skills and kids entertainment. Employees can also earn virtual “points” which can be redeemed against real rewards.
“It encourages healthy, internal competition and a sense of camaraderie,” says Collins. “It’s also part of the process of educating the workforce to pursue a healthier lifestyle. We are aligned with the national program for happiness and wellbeing in the UAE and have built our business on the same four pillars: promoting health, building relationships, instilling purpose and fulfilling potential.
“Our slogan is ‘vibe with your tribe.’ It’s all about building a community, building that work family.”
Anna Pukas has reported from all over the world as a foreign correspondent for British media. She is now an editor based in Abu Dhabi.