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Case studies: Shaping the business towards work-life excellence

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Following the inaugural Tripartite Alliance (TA) Award organised by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) in November 2018, Jerene Ang speaks to four award-winning HR leaders to uncover unique work-life initiatives.

Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States, has been known to make a number of eloquent statements, but this one on work-life balance really stands out: “We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.”

In an era dominated by the always-on environment of digital screens, work-life balance has quickly become a key concern among the more mindful members of the workforce.

And for good reason – a study by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) released in 2018 to quantify the benefits of work-life programmes found that pro work-life organisations not only had a lower annual resignation rate, but also saved on healthcare costs per employee.

Human Resources spoke to four HR leaders from the recent winners of the Tripartite Alliance Award Work-Life Excellence category to uncover ideas of work-life initiatives you can try for 2019 as well as tips for successful implementation.

DLE M&E: Building happiness

While work-life excellence is not the first thing that comes to mind when talking about the construction industry, DLE M&E’s work-life strategy is based on its belief that looking after the wellbeing of employees and helping them stay healthy will enable them to work more effectively and productively.

As such, it collaborates with external vendors to organise health and wellness activities and successfully leverages employee champions to garner greater support and participation. The effectiveness of its communication channels is one of the success factors of its work-life strategy. The firm uses a variety of communication channels tailored to its different employee groups.

Sharing one key tip to ensure a successful implementation, Sarah Tham, Associate Director for Finance and HR at DLE M&E, said:

As a small-medium enterprise, resources are often limited. However, we have creatively sourced for partnerships and tapped on government grants to kick-start our health talks and activities.

“For instance, we have leveraged the Health Promotion Board’s SME Health+ grant to roll out a series of fitness exercises and complimentary health screening. We have also worked with banks to carry out health talks such as pain management and complimentary spine screening when they had roadshows at our company.”

OCBC Bank: Depositing care and concern

The cornerstone of OCBC Bank’s work-life strategy is its all-encompassing culture of genuine care and concern shown towards all employees along with its adoption of fair and progressive employment practices. The bank believes in creating an environment where it can help employees succeed in building a fulfilling career and lead a meaningful personal life.

Using a forward-looking lens for the way work-life programmes are designed, it takes into account the needs of employees across various life-stages (young, mid-career and mature workers) to ensure programmes developed matter to its staff.

Jacinta Low, Head of HR Planning at OCBC Bank, emphasised:

Organisations need to take care not to omit any single person or group from being able to benefit from work-life programmes.

A notable initiative is “Life Refresh”, a lifelong learning programme that offers support in areas related to significant developments within the bank and the world at large, such as digital, fintech learning, financial planning, career planning, as well as health and fitness.

Another work-life initiative the bank offers is employee resource groups for parents with teens, single parents, employees who are caregivers, and parents with special needs children. Low said: “These support groups allow employees with similar backgrounds to share their experiences and support one another.”

Rajah & Tann Singapore: Supporting staff as a rule

Law firm Rajah & Tann has developed an effective work-life culture where leaders understand and believe in supporting employees in their competing responsibilities in and outside of work.

An innovative arrangement it offers employees on a needs basis is the compressed four to 4.5-day work week to help them better manage work and family commitments. This arrangement has seen an increasing number of requests annually and is especially welcomed at year-end when parents require flexible time to prepare their children for school examinations.

Another initiative, uncommon among other law firms, is its dedicated in-house ombudsman tasked to promote freedom of expression and a safe channel where matters can be discussed in confidence. It places an emphasis on the ombudsman’s role to ensure that employees’ emotional wellbeing and morale are looked after, which is key to its work-life strategy.

The law firm also offers options for associates who prefer working part-time or on flexible work arrangements, as well as constantly engages its lawyers through opportunities for job secondments to its regional offices and clients.

Noting that work-life is both a challenge and an opportunity to set and juggle career expectations and family commitments, Koay Saw Lean, Director of Human Resource at Rajah & Tann Singapore, said:

We need to listen to our employees, keep them engaged and be flexible when implementing work-life initiatives so that it is sustainable in the long run.

State Courts: The law on work and life commitments

“We need to recognise that different employees have different needs at different stages of their lives,” said Chan Kok Hoong, Director, People Development and Planning Directorate (PDPD), Corporate Services Division, State Courts.

He added:

By providing a supportive environment to help them maintain a good balance between personal and work commitments, the organisation will be able to build a happy and effective workforce.

One way in which State Courts provides such an environment is through supporting employees who require alternative work arrangements through initiatives such as the enhanced flexi-hour scheme (previously known as the compressed work week scheme) and the part-time scheme.

State Courts has also implemented a job-sharing arrangement for senior magistrate positions which are typically taken up by judges aged 67 and above who are re-employed.

Further, it has removed night court sessions on Friday nights to align with the Blue Sky Friday initiative as well as prepared employees (including supervisors and managers) in their roles in the organisation’s work-life strategy through various channels such as meetings with the PDPD.

While all four of these organisations are implementing work-life balance as a culture, what’s also common to them is that employees are being listened to and heard, and accordingly, their needs are catered to. Perhaps, we can all draw some insights from these TA Award winners as we put in place our new policies and strategies for 2019.

For more tips on work-life implementation, visit tafep.sg.



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