Why fun at work is serious business

Holly Branson in a Q&A with Virgin Mobile UAE's People Squad
Virgin Mobile UAE
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 23 August 2023

Having fun at work is serious business in my mind.

At Virgin, we’ve built a culture that doesn’t just let people have fun, but actively encourages it. This focus on fun and screwing business as usual really shaped us into a challenger brand from day one. Our playful spirit has driven smart disruption, sparked innovation, created brand love, built trust, helped people feel connected, and brought out the best in all of us. Making room for fun really comes down to letting people be human at work. You can’t build a healthy business if you don’t have happy people, so building a ‘fun workplace’ needs to be more than a recruitment tool. At the end of the day, treating your people well is simply the right thing to do, irrespective of any business case.

Holly Branson at Virgin's 2023 Summer Party
Kami White

I love seeing how our Virgin companies embody this spirit of fun and put their people first. Virgin Mobile in the UAE is a brilliant example - with its very own People Squad. The squad is a team of people entirely dedicated to having fun and bringing colleagues together. The group launched in 2022 and has been a powerful way to boost both morale and inclusion. I wanted to learn more about the brilliant people behind the project, so I (virtually) sat down with them all recently to discuss all things culture, belonging, purpose, and the importance of having fun at work.

Holly Branson's Q&A with Virgin Mobile UAE's People Squad

We also discussed the qualities we look for in people at Virgin. As I put it, we’re always on the lookout for team players, optimists, and risk-takers. People who are driven by strong values, kind at heart and feel strongly aligned to our purpose. This is so much more important to us than education achievements or even work experience. We see diversity as one of the biggest strengths a business has, and we want people from all walks of life to feel like they belong at Virgin and know they can bring their different skillsets and lived experiences to their role. It’s this diversity of thought, combined with people who are passionate, purpose-fuelled, kind and optimistic that really set our people apart.

Richard, Sam and Holly Branson with the Virgin Stars of the Year winner
Image from Kami White

I was amazed to hear that the People Squad organised 38 different activities including quarterly coffees with the CEO, breakfasts to celebrate its delivery drivers, Diwali feasts, ‘bring your kids to work’ days, karaoke sessions, and team thank you events. I think it’s brilliant, and the feedback the squad has received has been extremely positive. As one of their people put it:

Through the People Squad, we have managed to build a genuine sense of camaraderie, across a very diverse group of people coming from all parts of the world. I’m very passionate about creating a workplace that is inclusive, supportive, productive and enjoyable. Through the People Squad, that’s what we’ve exactly done.

It’s wonderful to see how a voluntary squad created by people, for people can have such a big impact. It’s also great to see how having fun at work can break down barriers and create more inclusive workplaces.

speaking at the Founders Unite award ceremony
Kami White

Keep up the great work Virgin Mobile UAE! Hopefully this has inspired everyone to make a little more room for fun, and a whole lot more room for inclusion.