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Staff welfare is increasingly becoming more of a right than a privilege

From massages to meditation courses, here’s how companies are keeping their staff happy.

There has probably been a stage in most people’s working lives when they wished they could quit and join the likes of Google and Facebook. Never mind if they don’t even have the required skill sets. What they really want is to have a taste of the legendary buffets and endless snacks in an environment where the old adage that happy employees make better workers is ingrained in a company’s manifesto.

Staff welfare has always been part of a company’s organisational structure, although how that is interpreted is another story. If you work in a company which feels that the only thing it owes you is to let you keep your job, it’s time to feel jealous about how some employers go the extra mile for their staff.

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MAKE THEM HAPPY

It seems obvious, but happiness is a two way street for employer and employee.  ”Happy staff makes for happy guests,” says Patrick Fiat, general manager of Royal Plaza on Scotts.

”When we are passionate about our employees, they will help our business stand out among the competition and strengthen the brand.”

The hotel, which is consistently recognised for its good employer practices, offers myriad perks for its staff. For example, employees who are pregnant or over 50 years old get free annual flu vaccinations. Those with a perfect work attendance record for the year are also rewarded. Other benefits include flexible times to start their work day, a day off during their birthday month with a complimentary high tea treat at its restaurant, and two days of examination leave for those who want to further their education.

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For its efforts, the hotel was recently awarded the second best workplace for 2018 by the Great Place to Work Institute, a global research firm that helps organisations identify, create and sustain great workplaces.

Other employers are not far behind.

At events company Mercury Live, staff get massages at work twice a month, monthly bootcamp sessions, and get off work early every last Friday of the month.

At DP Architects, cycling in Pulau Ubin, trekking sessions and an internal cooking competition are just some of the activities that have been organised for its staff. Last year, the company even invited a Benedictine monk to conduct a meditation course, which was attended by 200 employees. Since then, they have introduced daily meditation sessions to get everybody into a state of Zen before they start work.

DP’s director of human resources, Raymond Chan, says: ”We believe that it is important to provide a holistic environment for our employees whereby both their professional and personal wellbeing are taken care of. We feel that this is the key to a happy and sustainable environment, so as to attract and retain talents.”

Marina Bay Sands, in turn, believes in keeping their employees fit and healthy. While hotel staff meals are already a given, employees find healthier food options including an extensive salad bar, brown rice, sustainably-sourced tilapia and steamed vegetables on the menu. MBS also works with external specialists to offer fitness programmes.

At Mercury Live, staff also get to attend talks by experts in fields such as design, consumer behaviour and fashion, which are relevant to the types of clients that they work with.

Its general manager Paulo Felisbino says: ”We invest in upskilling our staff to get better creative results in our projects, and also as a way to provide them incentives and personal growth.”

THE RIGHT BALANCE

How important are staff perks?

David Leong, managing director of HR consulting firm Peopleworldwide, says that perks ”break the daily grind of routine and repetitive work processes. Whether it’s an overseas trip or a training program, the whole idea is to dislocate the staff from a familiar environment to a new one where the daily repetitive work cycle is broken. With the usual formal work setting taken out, employees can mix freely, bond and align for group effectiveness.”

Mr Leong, however, warns against giving too many perks saying that, ”they can affect work ethics and possibly develop work-reward expectations.”

Foo See Yang, managing director at recruitment specialist Kelly Services Singapore notes that while most companies already have perks that promote personal development or wellbeing, with social awareness on the rise, employees today are more likely to derive meaning and purpose from their work.

”Perks that allow them to contribute to communities or causes that they feel strongly for will help them feel like their company cares about their personal beliefs and values,” he says.

He adds that each company has its unique and diverse combination of employee work ideals. ”Companies must first understand the goals and motivations of its employees before it can develop rewards and recognition systems that best align with their employees’ expectations,” he says.

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Mr Foo adds that companies with employees who are engaged, motivated, and feel that they are valued can expect to see greater employee attraction, retention, well-being, and engagement outcomes.

”Employees who like their office, the work that they do, and the colleagues around them will be more likely to refuse external offers. With a lower turnover rate, companies save on the time, money, and resources looking for and training replacements,” he says.


All work and some play

Improving staff wellbeing and performance is a growing business in itself. Weekend finds out what some of them offer.


  • 01 The Fun Empire

    If your boss tells you to go out and play Bubble Bump or Poolball, he isn't saying that you can take the afternoon off and head to an amusement arcade. Welcome to a new form of team building, where Bubble Bump and Poolball are the names of  activities provided by The Fun Empire, a team building and events company. Its corporate clients include Google, Apple and PayPal.

    ''Our participant mix is generally well-balanced, with some events only for top and upper management, while other events include a wide spectrum of both entry-level, middle and top management,'' says co-founder Ryan Ho.

    Together with co-founder Natasha Toh, they created the game of Bubble Bump, where players wear huge inflatable bubble suits to play games. In Poolball, players kick soccer balls into pockets on a 7m long giant pool table.

    ''We specially design all our activities and workshops to include elements of team-building and bonding, where skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving are required for participants to achieve the objectives of each activity,'' says Mr Ho.

    He adds, ''Management clients enjoy the activities as they are fresh, novel and something that they've never done before with their colleagues.'' In the process, employees learn more about each other in a different setting outside of work, building camaraderie and trust, which create positive effects on their team's culture when they return to their workplaces.

    It isn't all physical activity, though. The Fun Empire also offers workshops such as terrarium making, art jamming and leather crafting.  

    thefunempire.com

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This article was originally published in The Business Times.

Photos: DP Architects, The Fun Empire, Human Performance Institute & Kokuyo