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How NAFA helps staff strike a work-life balance

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This article is brought to you by IHRP.

Sim Choo Lee, Head of Human Resources, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), speaks to Institute for Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) on work-life wellbeing initiatives at NAFA and what to take note of when implementing similar programmes.

Q What approach does NAFA take when it comes to employee health & wellbeing?

People are at the centre of what we do and we aim to create an environment that allows colleagues to feel motivated and engaged.

In line with NAFA’s core value of ‘Care’, creating a caring and supportive environment is top of mind. Out of this, various work-life integration initiatives were born to help colleagues strike a balance between work and personal lives. For example, we have flexible work arrangements, health and wellbeing programmes including an Employee Assistance Programme, a dedicated gym, a lactation room, and a full-day preschool on campus for employees to place the care of their children at a trusted facility within reach at special fees. Our Kids @ Work programme also allows employees to bring their children to work to help them better understand what their parents do.

In essence, NAFA takes on a holistic employee-oriented approach to managing employee health and wellbeing that encompasses social, financial, physical, emotional, and psychological aspects.

Among the health & wellbeing initiatives NAFA has implemented, which one are you most proud of?

NAFA organises a plethora of monthly activities such as hikes, fitness classes, talks, and workshops. We also provide time-off for colleagues to use the enhanced gym facilities and organise an annual complimentary health screening.

It is difficult to pin down an initiative we are most proud of, as each has its own benefits. If I have to choose, it would be the work-life wellbeing initiatives in the form of telecommuting and flexible work hours. We have received positive feedback on these initiatives as it gives them the flexibility to manage their work and personal time and empowers them to manage job tasks and timelines. Time saved on commuting can also be better spent on tasks which require intense concentration.

NAFA has won many accolades in recent years, which has encouraged us to keep going. For example, NTUC’s Plaque of Commendation (Gold) – 2019, the National Steps Challenge Industry Award Winner for Seasons 3 and 4 (2018/2019), and more.

When was the initiative launched and how was it implemented?

Senior management is supportive as they recognise that people are our greatest asset. In terms of stakeholder buy-ins, we piloted telecommuting and staggered work hours in June 2016 before formalisation in September 2016. After the pilot, we conducted focus groups for employees to fine-tune the policy and procedures before launching the schemes. The launch was communicated via dialogue sessions, intranet, EDMs and infographic posters around the three campuses.

Generally, the launch and execution of the initiatives were smooth with minimal challenges and the initiatives were welcomed by most colleagues. If we were to pin down a challenge, it would be working with some offices to understand their challenges in implementing telecommuting and developing solutions together to overcome them.

What business pain point was NAFA trying to solve? What was the outcome and how do you measure ROI?

The initiatives did not stem from a business pain point. As mentioned earlier, our people are at the heart of the academy. Knowing these initiatives will be of value to colleagues and their wellbeing, we decided to proceed with it. While there is no direct measurement of satisfaction levels, one point of reference would be the biennial Organisational Climate Survey which received a score of 84% on engagement, with improvements since 2014.

What advice do you have for other organisations looking to implement similar initiatives under health & wellness?

Understand company and employee needs and profiles before implementing any initiatives. Gather feedback, speak to people, and to tap on available grants to support the execution of such initiatives. NAFA tapped on the Work-Life Grant under the WorkPro Scheme by e2i and NTUC. It was a win-win for both the organisation and staff.

I understand NAFA is one of IHRP’s partners under the Corporate Partner Programme. What sparked the decision to join the programme? And, what impact did it have on your HR initiatives?

NAFA places an emphasis on development and HR leads by example. Our IHRP-certified professionals regularly attend events organised by IHRP, where they are exposed to new knowledge and inspiration on initiatives. Even before we were aware of the Corporate Partner Programme, we were supportive of our HR colleagues’ individual efforts to attain their IHRP certification.

We were excited when we discovered the Corporate Partner Programme, as we saw it as an opportunity to connect with industry peers and learn about best practices. While we are still new to this programme, we look forward to attending more events organised by IHRP and view this as a testament of our commitment to stay ahead in being a progressive HR team.

How has NAFA’s IHRP-certified professionals led to significant impact to your organisational business goals?

The HR initiatives organised are more holistic as they seem able to consider each proposal from different HR angles. Indeed, these efforts have positively influenced NAFA’s employee engagement scores and resulted in low staff attrition rate.


Sim Choo Lee is the Head of Human Resources at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA). She has over 39 years of professional experience in leadership roles covering the full spectrum of HR management, sourcing, supply chain management, finance, and general administrative functions in various industries.

Established in 1938, NAFA is Singapore’s pioneer arts institution. It offers full-time diploma and degree programmes across three schools: The School of Art & Design, the School of Music, and the School of Arts Management, Dance & Theatre. It also provides arts education for all age groups through the NAFA Arts Preschool, School of Young Talents and Centre for Lifelong Education.


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