While health and wellness programmes don’t have to be a big investment, sometimes an extra pair of hands never hurts. By Sabrina Zolkifi.Recently, Pan Asia Logistics (PAL) underwent rapid growth and change, which unsurprisingly resulted in “tremendous amounts of work and pressure”.
For Catherine Thia, regional manager for HR and corporate affairs at PAL, being open and working through the challenges as a team helped her navigate through the stressful period, adding employee wellness also played a part.
“Maintaining a fit and healthy body coupled with a clear and positive mindset can facilitate the ability to better thinking and innovative ideas to solve problems quickly,” she says.
Three years ago, PAL moved into its new flagship building in Changi North, where it was able to offer yoga and billiard rooms for staff to de-stress in during lunch or after office hours.
The company also paid for yoga and Pilates trainers, who conducts classes on a weekly basis, something which has been well-received. But PAL went above and beyond by providing facilities to help employees unwind.
“We installed regular employee surveys to identify programmes of interest on a regular basis,” Thia says.
“The reason for adopting this approach was because PAL has a diverse workforce, and we value the difference of our employees. As such, our activities are selected based on employee surveys in order to cater to the variety of preferences.”
She says the company was motivated to help employees stay healthy because it understood “having a healthy, happy and productive workforce is a cornerstone of the management culture”.
However, despite the best intentions, rolling out a health and wellness programme is no easy feat. At PAL, attempting to do so, without professional assistance, resulted in various challenges and a programme which didn’t take off as anticipated.
“As our workforce is scattered over three physical locations around the island, with two locations boasting smaller headcounts, it made planning and selecting venues for activities quite challenging,” she says.
That was when PAL utilised the Health Promotion Board’s (HPB) Workplace Health Promotion (WHP) grant.
“With the help of the WHP grant, we were able to tap on the scheme and engage professional consultants who advised us on how to launch a more comprehensive, effective and sustainable programme.”
One of the programmes PAL is rolling out is the Mental Health Programme, which will run for about two months.
“This will include a series of activities such as luncheon talks, e-messages and workshops focusing on emotions, sadness and fear, positive thinking, as well as relaxing exercises to promote and increase the awareness of emotional and mental wellbeing.”
Sng Yan Ling, deputy director of the mental health education and preventive health programmes division at HPB, says when it comes to mental wellbeing, understanding the needs of employees is a key first step companies need to take.
“Companies can access their employees’ current levels of mental wellbeing, stress and satisfaction via mental health assessment tools or employee engagement surveys,” Sng says.
“With this information, companies are able to identify and scope programmes to address specific areas they may wish to focus on.”
Aside from gleaning feedback from employees, Thia says PAL also provides channels for open communication, and educates and enables all employees to be accountable for their own health and wellbeing.
“Our HR managers and executives have also attended training under HPB’s Employees Assistance Champion Programme, as well as Caper Spring’s ‘Introduction to Emotions’, which taught them the signs and symptoms of stress.
“We will further cascade this training to all managers and supervisors so they are equipped with enhanced management skills to better identify staff with signs of burnout and take the appropriate actions.”
Sng says mental health programmes don’t have to be labour or cost-effective.
“Companies can start small and build up once the initiatives gain traction. Programmes can also take the form of simple engagement activities that can get people talking about, and gain awareness of good mental wellbeing.
“For example, to increase employees’ understanding of the importance of resilience at work, companies can tie in a short video screening on resilience together with a planned corporate event, and disseminate information booklets which are available for free from HPB.”
With the new programmes in place, Thia says PAL is now better equipped to identify early signs of potential cases and address them. She adds this allows it to take the necessary remedial actions before it escalates into a full-blown problem.
To get better results, Sng says leadership buy-in is absolutely important.
“It plays a pivotal role in setting the tone, endorsement of time and resources, and encourages employee participation.
“For example, the formation of committees with dedicated manpower and structure to plan and implement programmes will result in appropriate, comprehensive and sustainable initiatives. These will yield returns, with employers and employees reaping the benefits of better mental wellbeing and work performance.”
Moving forward, Thia says PAL will continue to engage an external WHP manager to help develop more programmes.
“This will help us cover a wider range of relevant topics that can cater to the needs of our employees at all levels, and help us evaluate the success of the programme,” she says.
GO BACK TO MAIN FEATURE: Time out! Don’t burn out
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