With 45% of its workforce working from home, and the rest required to remain in-site to ensure operational continuity, Senoko Energy has adapted fast to the changing business environment. From split team arrangements to separated housing; from a digital communication and e-learning platform to quarterly townhalls, find out the steps taken to keep an essential-services company running at its peak despite the Circuit Breaker, in this exclusive interview.

With Singapore easing out of the Circuit Breaker (CB) effective 2 June 2020, there are still companies, and workers, that have been operating in full swing throughout this period in order to keep the economy running as part of the essential service network.

As one of Singapore’s largest power generation companies, Senoko Energy has doubled down on efforts to ensure that Singapore’s energy needs continue to be met during these challenging times. While the company has put in place work-from-home arrangements for non-operational employees, many of its employees are required to remain on the frontlines to keep the power running for the nation.

Recognising the stress associated with the pandemic that its employees might experience, Senoko Energy has introduced a series of initiatives to improve morale and ensure engagement. In this exclusive interview, we speak to Tan Cheng Teck, Executive Vice President (Operations & Maintenance) & Emergency Planning Officer, Senoko Energy, who shares how the company has adapted to ensure the wellbeing of its employees, while maintaining high levels of productivity.

Interview excerpts below: 

Q What is Senoko Energy doing to ensure safety of employees during this tough time?

As part of our business continuity plan (BCP), we have implemented a number of safety measures to protect the health and safety as well as the welfare of our employees while ensuring we can continue to operate smoothly. Since March, we have implemented telecommuting for staff who can carry out their duties away from the plant and have progressively expanded this to include more employees such as the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) team, who are only going to the power plant on a need-to-basis for essential duties to keep the lights on in Singapore. Currently, 45% of our 323-strong staff are working from home.

For staff who are required to remain on-site to ensure operational continuity, we have adopted split team arrangements where they are allocated to alternate teams, identified by different coloured lanyards (i.e. Team A and Team B). They are housed physically in different locations within the site and deployed according to their respective work schedules. Each team is further split with staggered working hours and lunch breaks to minimise social contact in common spaces.

These changes do not only apply to Senoko Energy’s employees. Our contractors are also required to comply. Other measures we have adopted to protect our frontline employees include the distribution and mandatory wearing of masks on-site and while travelling on company transport, regular temperature taking, increased cleaning of premises and implementation of virtual meetings.

To reduce close physical interactions, we also have strict social distancing measures in place throughout the power plant, including meeting rooms, lifts and the staff canteen, where congregating or queuing of employees might take place. For instance, we have reduced the number of available seats in meeting rooms by removing excess chairs. The remaining chairs are spaced at least 1m apart. All recreation facilities such as gyms are also closed during this period.

It is our utmost priority to look after the health of our staff and we are regularly reviewing our business continuity measures in line with the evolving situation and in compliance with any new requirements imposed by the Ministry of Health (MOH), Ministry of Manpower and the Energy Market Authority. 

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Q Apart from physical safety, does Senoko have interventions for mental wellbeing as well?

We are approaching the COVID-19 pandemic with the mindset of ensuring not just the safety but the overall wellbeing of our employees during this period. Our efforts are focused on two key aspects – helping alleviate people’s concerns around the direct impact of the outbreak on their work and combating social isolation resulting from weeks of working from home.

Since we put in place work-from-home arrangements earlier in March, department heads have begun to engage employees on a weekly basis to check on their wellbeing. In April, we set up the Senoko Resource Centre – a digital platform that keeps our employees well-informed on all internal and external developments related to COVID-19. This runs the gamut from FAQs and resources to help employees navigate telecommuting to media news and government advisories. The Centre also serves as an e-learning platform, with a range of curated and original content focusing on relevant topics such as managing stress, working remotely and ensuring productivity. The platform also hosts a forum, allowing our employees to interact with one another as well as raise any questions or concerns.

We understand that employees want to hear directly from their leaders during such uncertain times, which was why we proceeded with our quarterly townhall meeting through a pre-recorded session with the relevant representatives. Following this, employees submitted their queries online and the consolidated responses were shared across the company.

In addition, we also kickstarted a monthly live panel session for Senoko Energy’s management to personally touch base with all employees and address their queries and concerns, as well as update them on key business developments. Through the panel session, we seek to convey our appreciation for the great work the team has been putting in and to provide a platform for direct and open communication between the management and employees.

Besides ensuring our employees are well-informed, we are also stepping up our employee engagement efforts. As more teams become acclimated to working remotely, it is a priority for us to maintain a sense of connection and camaraderie within the company. In line with this, we have implemented weekly sessions where all employees come together virtually for a social activity to unwind and reconnect. We have received great response so far for our virtual yoga and dalgona coffee-making lessons and have many more activities lined up over the coming month. We also replaced our weekly Learn-At-Lunch sessions with virtual talks facilitated by both employees and external parties. These sessions cover a variety of topics, from personal hobbies to career-building tips.

 meeting room social distancing

Q What goes into ensuring business-as-usual for an essential service provider during this period?

As an essential service provider, ensuring that our operations run smoothly during this period is not just crucial for business sustainability but also needed to safeguard Singapore’s critical infrastructure. To do so, we have a robust BCP in place and our top priority is ensuring Singapore’s electricity supply is not disrupted.

Where possible, we have automated our business processes and provided employees who telecommute with the necessary tools so that they can continue to work efficiently from home. On the customer front, we regularly check in with them to ensure that they are informed of any changes and to provide reassurance.

To ensure business-as-usual in this rapidly changing environment, it is also important that we keep our fingers on the pulse so that we can quickly adapt to changes. Our crisis management team, which is made up of representatives across different departments, has led our COVID-19 response and ensured that we are able to stay flexible and respond promptly as a business. They organise weekly virtual meetings with the management team, during which they provide timely updates on the evolving situation and discuss the measures needed to help the company navigate the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

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Q What has been the biggest challenge you have needed to overcome during this pandemic?

With the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the key challenges for us have been rethinking how we ensure teamwork, keep our employees motivated and engaged as well as maintain a consistent line of communication amid strict social distancing measures.

In order to keep the electricity flowing for the nation, another challenge we face is ensuring the health and safety of our employees who are unable to work from home and still need to travel to the station to work. For these employees, we have implemented strict procedures to ensure their safety, such as the ones elaborated on above.

Additionally, our crisis management and safety teams constantly review the guidelines provided by WHO and MOH on how companies can safeguard the health and safety of employees. At the same time, we also provide health tips and guidelines to our employees on a regular basis, such as the right way to wear and dispose of a face mask. The additional precautionary measures have posed challenges in the delivery of the country’s electricity needs, but we remain steadfast in being well-equipped to adapt to the rapidly changing conditions.

While we understand that the tightened control measures introduced by the government are necessary to protect the health of people in Singapore and lower the spread of the virus, we are equally challenged by the limited availability of overseas Technical Advisors/Specialists (TA/S) and local contractors’ workers at our site to carry out essential duties so as to keep our generating units in continuous operations reliably. In response, we have swiftly made adjustments to our work schedules so that sufficient support is provided across our operations and we are glad to see that the rest of our employees have readily stepped up to the plate to take on these responsibilities.

As the situation continues to evolve, we will continue to do our part to ensure the safety and health of our employees, provide timely updates and address their concerns and needs with minimal delay.

pantry table social distancing

Q How does the company motivate, engage and inspire employees – both frontliners and those who are able to telecommute – to continue working hard in spite of the containment efforts underway?

Senoko Energy has always had a family-centric culture that leans heavily on looking after our people. As I shared earlier, we have rolled out a slew of employee engagement activities to ensure that they are well-informed as well as connected to each other during such times. We have established several lines of communication, while supervisors are also encouraged to check in regularly with their teams through video conferencing to keep them motivated and ensure they are coping well.

These are trying times for everyone, from our employees working from home to our frontliners at the power plant, and our focus at this time is ensuring their wellbeing above all else. We are glad to see our employees come together to cope and adapt to the situation. Their unity and willingness to work as a team – which we have always prided ourselves on – will go a long way in ensuring we can keep our business operations running smoothly in these difficult times. We appreciate and recognise our employees’ courage and efforts to turn up at Senoko every day for essential works. This commitment has enabled us to keep the power plants operating 24/7 to provide electricity to residents in Singapore who are staying at home and to healthcare institutions as the fight against COVID-19 rages on.

Looking ahead, we will work closely with our employees to ready them for recovery post COVID-19. While it remains uncertain when the pandemic will end, we stand ready to facilitate and support our employees in returning to normal work activities.

Lead image / iStock
All other photos / Provided by Senoko Energy