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Working parents' network, 4.5 day workweek, and more: Philip Morris Malaysia's strong DEI focus

Working parents' network, 4.5 day workweek, and more: Philip Morris Malaysia's strong DEI focus

Swati Chawla, Director of People & Culture, Philip Morris Malaysia (PMM), talks about employee interventions that are enabling them to become more productive as well as engaged.

When I was appointed as the Director of People and Culture for Malaysia in 2021, many asked: "What is the one thing that you wish to bring to the teams in Philip Morris Malaysia?"

Looking back, I am proud to say that my answer remains the same even today - that is to foster productive, well, and engaged employees who thrive in the workplace and can pivot quickly in an environment that is constantly changing to meet the needs of our business.

Driving employees’ productivity, wellness, and engagement requires continuous evaluation and change to adapt to the needs of the business, the external environment, and the people.

One such important pillar is for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) to be a driver for business innovation and productivity instead of just a business enabler. Hence, we focused on initiatives related to DEI in 2022, and below, I've shared some examples.

1. Establishment of the 'Parents' Connect Group'

Becoming a parent and raising a family while advancing your career can be difficult. To assist the working parents in PMM, we set up a Parents' Connect group in 2021, where parents and parents-to-be can exchange their experiences and learn from experts on areas such as coping with adolescents, carving out me-time, balancing work requirements, and proposing fun, family activities together.

Over time, we gathered feedback from young and first-time parents, which allowed us to enhance some of our policies, including introducing part-time working hours and upgrading the mothers’ room facilities (pictured below).

mothers room philip morris malaysia

Admittedly, this group has helped more and more parents at PMM feel more connected and productive, reminding our employees that they are not alone in this journey.

Last year, we also organised a trip to Zoo Negara Malaysia for our employees and their families, allowing them to strengthen their bonding outside the work environment (pictured below).

zoo negara malaysia philip morris

2. Implementation of the 4.5-day week

In PMM, we prioritise the wellbeing of our employees and strive to provide a flexible work environment. Hence, we introduced a new way of working called 'Smart Work', our version of hybrid working. With the Smart Work model, we mandate two fixed days to work from the office (Tuesday and Wednesday) and one flex day where the employees can choose to work from home, Monday or Thursday. With this, work can be prioritised and be more focused, which enables our employees to be more collaborative, effective, and efficient.

Besides, we were the first few corporates in Malaysia to introduce Friday as a half-workday. Usually, Fridays are catered for our employees to focus on and complete their work, hence no meetings are scheduled unless necessary. This new work arrangement allows our employees to have ample time to recharge over the long weekend (2.5 days) and increase their focus on work for the rest of the days (4.5 days).

zoo visit pmm

3. Paid parental leave for all parents, including birthing and non-birthing parents

At PMM, we believe every parent should have the opportunity to spend quality time with their new child. Irrespective of how the child was born (surrogacy/ adoption) and the marital status of an individual, we believe every parent should have an opportunity to spend quality time with their new baby. A significant and memorable time like this should not be missed, hence the need for an inclusive parental policy.

Last year, we revised our parental policies to include paid leave of up to 18 weeks for the primary caregiver while the secondary caregiver gets paid leave of up to eight weeks. This change has been well accepted across the organisation for being progressive and inclusive. 

4. Women’s upliftment and holistic wellness

Above all that, we carried out various initiatives to improve talent development in the organisation. For instance: 'Women in Leadership: A Conservation Series' - a webinar series for all female employees with panellists that comprise our in-house leaders, discussing what it means to be in the workplace of today and the future while learning from experiences that shaped their career growth and success.

Apart from that, we launched our in-house podcasts on subjects like ‘Hybrid Working Biasness', and 'Brown Bag Series' on ‘Career Management in Today’s World’.

We have also introduced mentors for some women employees, which allows them to have greater exposure to work, career development, and opportunities. We have created opportunities for women who are not mobile or prefer to be based in Malaysia to have greater roles and responsibilities, overseeing additional markets or regions.

On the wellness aspect, we focus on physical, emotional, workplace, and financial wellbeing. We also provide an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which includes a short-term counselling and assistance programme that supports our employees and their families in stress management, mental illness, and other concerns as needed.

And that was just a snippet of what we have done last year. As we go along, we will continue to focus on DEI initiatives because we believe that inclusive and diverse workplaces foster a productive and engaged workplace.

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Photos / Provided

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