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Employees from DP Architects playing Bubble Bump.

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MBS staff doing yoga with celebrity Denise Keller.

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Ninja Tag by The Fun Empire.

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A cooking competition for DP Architects’ staff.

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DP Architects staff cycling in Pulau Ubin.

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DP Architects staff attending a meditation session.

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Job perks and how to get them

Staff welfare is increasingly becoming more of a right than a privilege as companies look for ways to keep their employees happy and productive
Nov 23, 2018 5:50 AM

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.


 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.

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.''


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.

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.

02 Human Performance Institute

Johnson and Johnson is better known for its baby care and beauty products. But for the first time, it's bringing its Human Performance Institute (HPI) into the Asia Pacific region. HPI, which was started in the United States 25 years ago, provides a holistic approach to energy management.

Studies have shown that poor wellbeing is an issue for many working folks. This can lead to low levels of employee engagement and productivity, which impacts the employee's life and the company's performance. The best way for anyone to perform their best at work and at home is to start looking after themselves and to stay healthy.

HPI's Asia Pacific leader, Bobby Sheikh says, ''We help participants identify a deeper sense of purpose, become physically energized, emotionally connected and mentally focused, and to use stress as a force for good.''

In Singapore, participants can sign up for a two and a half day course at the Johnson and Johnson headquarters in Science Park Drive. In the course, they learn how to manage their energy levels, recognise the need to balance stress, break mental barriers, identify their purpose in life and work out an action plan to help them develop better habits. They also learn how to exercise efficiently with minimal equipment.

In the US, 80,000 Johnson and Johnson staff have gone thru a HPI course. A study published in 2018 in the American Journal of Health Promotion showed that the 2.5 day wellbeing course led to long-term improvements in employees' energy levels and purpose in life. In addition, 91 per cent of its employees anticipated significant gains in productivity, and 75 per cent reported reduced stress levels, even 18 months after the program. The study also showed decreased 'presenteeism', where workers are on the job but not fully functioning, and increased retention.

03 Kokuyo

With office folks spending at least eight hours a day at their desks, it only makes sense to have furniture that is ergonomic. Kokuyo, the Japanese firm that manufactures both stationery and office furniture knows the importance of providing chairs and desks with the user's wellbeing in mind.

At its recent 2018 Workstyle Fair in Tokyo, it showcased its new collection of office furniture to over 8,000 dealers and clients.

A highlight is the ing chair, a task chair with a 360-degree gliding mechanism, supposedly the first of its kind in the world. The innovative gliding mechanism mimics the hip-strengthening action of sitting on a balance ball. ''The body is not meant to sit still for long periods of time,'' says its designer Yojiro Kinoshita, head of the innovation center, furniture business division at Kokuyo. Studies have found that sitting for long periods of time increases the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other conditions.

The chair has no springs, relying just on gravity force as the seat moves in response to your movement. To stay balanced, you're forced to keep moving to ensure you're in the right position. This way, your hips, waist and back muscles are not stuck in the same position all the time. Your spine stays in its natural S-curve, reducing overall strain on the body. In other words, this chair doesn't allow you to slouch.

This is overall beneficial, because research by Tokyo University showed that sitting on the chair promotes a relaxed state of mind, and therefore better concentration levels during the day. The ing chair is available in Singapore.

Another star piece is the work desk Uptis. Unlike most desks which come with a flat desk top, the Uptis can be tilted up to 12 degrees. If you've had to stack your monitor or laptop on top of books to position the screen at eye level, Uptis takes away that need, reducing any shoulder or neck strain. The Uptis will be available in Singapore in 2019.

Mr Kinoshita says the design and engineering team do a lot of research, watching clients and their colleagues in the stationery department for their work habits. ''We are also part of the research ourselves, so we know what office workers want,'' he says.