What do managers mean when they talk about fostering a spirit of camaraderie in the workplace? And why is it so important for a well-functioning company?

If we take a look at the origins of the word itself, then it derives from the Middle French for camarade, which means a group sleeping in the same room together.

In a literal sense that’s exactly what my family do. Both my parents and I have an apartment at our headquarters in Bình Dương Province. We sleep “above the shop”.

For over 100 days this summer and early autumn, 1,000 staff members joined us too. They were all sleeping at the factory as part of the government’s three-on-the-spot policy (eat, work, sleep on site) to maintain manufacturing output and keep the economy running while the country was in lockdown.

It was a very difficult and challenging time for everyone, but the big upside was the sense of comradeship we all felt. Everyone was in it together, which is what our modern interpretation of camaraderie, or tình đồng hữu in Vietnamese, signifies.

Now that the strictest measures have been lifted, we’ve been thinking of ways to maintain that esprit de corps. Companies don’t work effectively when managers disappear into their silos, creating physical and psychological barriers between themselves and their staff.

Their team members become less confident about expressing their views because they’re unsure about how they’ll be received.

They also feel less valued. Being “seen” is something that everyone craves in work and in life: to feel appreciated and respected for what we do. We are all individuals and we all want to be treated as such.

One of the key things that THP managers always demonstrate is how they’re individuals themselves. It’s particularly evident on our Anniversary Day every 15 October.

This year, the celebrations went ‘virtual’, but that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits or their creativity. There were 34 videos in total and this year everything was put together internally – from the idea generation through to the filming and editing of the actual performances of the many songs, dances, poems or documentaries about life at THP. The performances and the production showcased camaraderie at its best.

The managers at our Chu Lai and Hậu Giang plants both composed songs and contribute alongside their staff’s dancing performance. Thanks to Covid-19 “alongside” currently means socially distanced. And that’s why it’s even more important than ever to create a deeper sense of belonging.

It’s less easy to throw ideas around a room together, or to host a team bonding session. There’s a physical distance between us that means we have to find new ways to show that we’re connected and available.

One new initiative we’ve taken is scrapping our directors’ dining room. Everyone now eats in the canteen together.

We all have the same meals, which we’ve put even more thought into to make sure that they’re nutritious. The directors also help to prepare them too. Camaraderie is truly in the air this season.