Well being: Corporate choirs keep the workplace humming along

UAE companies are making music to raise staff morale by launching corporate choirs.

The Atkins Corporate Choir practices in Bur Dubai. Companies have been embracing the trend of gathering employees together to make music and increase morale. Anna Nielsen for The National
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When it comes to corporate wellness, most people think of team-building games and sports as effective ways to encourage bonding and promote a healthy lifestyle. But there’s another activity catching on in the business world that ticks those all boxes – corporate choirs.

One UAE company joining the trend is the Dubai office of the engineering and design com­pany Atkins.

Helen Robinson, the firm’s regional head of talent management, learning and development, launched weekly office singing sessions, led by voice coach Kim A Page, this year to help the staff feel “healthier and more energetic”.

“It’s about getting people together from different parts of the organisation,” Ms Robinson explains.

Ms Robinson admits that by the end of a hard day at work, Atkins staff aren’t always in the mood for communal singing. “They might be thinking: ‘I don’t really want to go to choir.’ But they get an email from me telling them to buck their ideas up and come along. Then they go home smiling.”

The Atkins choir member and travel administrator, Charmaine Bucud, from the Philippines, says the singing sessions give off “positive vibes”.

“It’s nice to make acquaintance with people from different nationalities and departments too,” she adds.

Other UAE companies embracing the trend include Emirates with EKlectic, which won the Best Corporate Choir accolade at Dubai’s ChoirFest Middle East 2016 in March. Other entrants to the annual contest this year included Deutsche Bank and Dubai Duty Free.

Ms Robinson, who is now planning a Christmas show for her 12-member singing group, says the corporate choir movement is also catching on in her native UK, thanks in part to the popularity of the TV choirmaster Gareth Malone's BBC series The Choir: Sing While You Work.

Companies such as Deloitte, The Telegraph newspaper, John Lewis and Citigroup all have their own choirs.

One of the first global companies to lead the way, however, was Zappos, the US online shoe and clothing company headquartered in Las Vegas. Its a cappella group, formed in 2011, has morphed into the current 20-person ZChoir.

Group singing fits in well with Zappos’ notorious happiness culture, as Ryan Zsun, the company’s culture maestro, explains. “Zchoir is a wonderful way to build camaraderie and engagement ... All these qualities resonate with our core values, especially core value No 7: build a positive team and family spirit.”


Michael McLean, a cabin supervisor with Emirates and a member of the company’s corporate choir EKlectic, tells Jessica Hill more about the singing group:

How long has the choir been running?

The choir was put together in February, two weeks before we won at ChoirFest Middle East 2016.

What jobs at Emirates do your members have?

All of our members are Emirates cabin crew. Some have been at the company for a year and others for seven or eight years. We’ve never been able to fly together but would love an impromptu performance on board for our customers.

Is it called EKlectic because you have an eclectic repertoire?

EKlectic represents our music style as well as our nationalities. We are 10 members from eight different countries and have very different performing backgrounds. When we put our styles together it creates something very special.

Where else has the choir performed?

The choir performed at the Emirates financial ball several months ago, which was another great night for us. We have not performed together for a while now, but are still very eager and looking forward to getting another gig soon.

Do you have any tactics for warming people up to public singing?

Nerves are good. Adrenalin is great for your voice, so embrace the nerves and the more you do it the more comfortable you become. And have fun. The more fun you have on stage the more your audience will have fun with you.


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