Taking a break makes a team

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 June, 2012, 12:00am


It made perfect sense for Travelport's Hong Kong office to take time off to be spoiled a few weeks ago. Every quarter, the global travel distribution system and airline IT-solutions provider offers its staff a break for a spot of rest and relaxation, some fun and camaraderie.

A sizzling hot summer and an intense spell of work made massage the unanimous choice this quarter. More than 50 per cent of staff took up the offer of either foot or body massages.

The past months had been a tough grind for staff under pressure to achieve targets. The firm, headquartered in New York, serves 170 countries and has a presence in 42 markets with sales, service and support offices. It boasts a global workforce of 3,500, with a Hong Kong operation manned by 39 people. A matrix organisation, Travelport teams are often virtual and span the region and the globe.

'We had been working very hard to meet our KPIs (key performance indicators). My hours were irregular because I had to communicate with people not only in Asia-Pacific but also in other parts of the world, like the UK and the US,' says Abigail Lee, Travelport's product support manager for Asia-Pacific.

Part of the seven-member team supporting the region, Lee is the one based in Hong Kong, with the others in Singapore and Australia. 'There were late nights and weekends. So, the massage came at a good time, helping us to get rid of all the accumulated stress,' says Lee.

Employee wellness initiatives, such as massage services for staff, are an important part of Travelport's human resources policy. 'It's part of the value we give our employees,' says Lee Golding, executive vice-president and chief human resources officer for Travelport. Not only do these activities make staff happy, they are also a driver for retention and teambuilding, Golding says.

In March this year, the Hong Kong office teamed up for a hike in Sai Kung. 'We did part of the MacLehose Trail,' says Lee.

The outing helped Lee to bond with colleagues. 'It's an opportunity to get to know people better, and bond with those you might sometimes have differences with when working under pressure in the office,' she says.

Travelport's wellness programme is two-pronged, says Golding. There is the health and fitness focus and there are the flexible work practices.

Travelport's value statement is encapsulated in CHOICE - customer first, honesty, ownership, innovation, collaboration and execution - built into the employee performance rating.

The wellness programme was introduced in November 2010 to reduce attrition.

While it is still too early to ascertain its impact, Travelport has recorded a 12 per cent drop in attrition, from 28 per cent to 16 per cent, over the period from November 2010 to November 2011.

The most recent survey showed a 90 per cent participation rate, indicating that Travelport's employees are engaged in the business and committed to making Travelport a great place to work, says Golding.