Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the 2021 Best Workplaces Summit on 2 December 2021.
Mrs Joni Ong
Managing Director, Great Place to Work Institute Singapore
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very happy to join you this evening at the 2021 Singapore Best Workplaces Summit.
If you think about it, most of us spend a significant proportion of our lives at work. Engaging in meaningful work, with supportive leaders and colleagues whom we share a common mission and sense of belonging, gives us joy, purpose and fulfilment.
So I am always happy to support this initiative by the Great Place to Work Singapore to recognise great workplaces, and promote good workplace cultures and practices.
Let me start by congratulating all the award winners.
You are role models for other companies in Singapore to aspire toward, as they progress in their journey to become great places to work.
I am also happy to see that for the first time this year, there is a new category for Best Workplaces in Technology.
As Joni mentioned in her speech earlier, this is timely given that tech is an exciting and growing sector, with around 80 of the world’s top 100 technology firms having a sizable presence in Singapore.
Congratulations to all the winners!
Changing Nature of Work
COVID-19 has accelerated structural trends that will fundamentally change work and the workplace. But more importantly, it has catalysed change at a pace and scale beyond our imagination.
When countries imposed lockdowns, the world went into a giant experiment in working from home. Remote work and virtual meetings, enabled by pervasive digitalisation, are now part of our daily lives.
With the fourth industrial revolution, technologies such as AI and robotics, will completely reshape the nature of work in the years ahead.
Beyond COVID-19, many societies will also have to contend with structural shifts such as ageing demographics.
At the same time, employees’ mindsets are also shifting.
We are now coming to almost two years in this pandemic. While hybrid work has been welcomed by some, there are others who have struggled to balance work, leisure and family.
Working from home often meant a blurring of lines between the personal and professional.
Those with young children often told me what a challenge it has been to work-from-home while helping their children with home-based-learning. They say it’s much more stressful than working in the office!
The pandemic has also meant that many workers have had to go beyond their typical scope of work, stretching themselves to the limit. If we are not careful, burnout is a real possibility for many workers. In some countries, we are seeing the phenomenon of the “Great Resignation”. We must avoid that.
The learning point is that increasingly, employees will put a greater value in a workplace that offers good work-life practices – one that not only focuses on immediate work priorities and outputs, but also cares for the well-being and develops its employees fully, so that they can make an impact and stay for the long term.
In this pandemic, we must take the opportunity to transform workplaces to respond to these trends.
The fortunes of companies and workers are ultimately intertwined.
Companies that are best able to transform to help their workers grow at work and beyond work, will themselves do well too.
In Singapore, we are starting from a good position. We have worked hard over the years, even prior to COVID-19, to foster progressive and fair workplaces that can bring out the best in each of us.
For example, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices, or TAFEP, has done well in working with employers to build workplaces where employees are not only respected, but can achieve their full potential.
Our tripartite partners – Government, employers, Labour Movement – have also worked well together to upskill and reskill our workers, especially our mature workers. For example, NTUC’s Company Training Committee is driving both business and workforce transformation across many companies.
But it goes beyond reskilling and upskilling. Increasingly, employers will also need to think harder about how to enhance the overall wellness of their employees. It’s not just about dollars and cents, but also providing them with greater purpose at work and pride in what they do, fostering a culture of fairness and respect, supporting their aspirations, and helping them balance their various priorities.
A more holistic approach towards wellness
In fact, many of this year’s winners have exemplified this approach of taking care of their employees’ overall wellness, especially given the additional stresses caused by the pandemic.
For example, CISCO Systems trains all its leaders on "Managing Mental Health during Covid-19" which covers the fundamentals of supporting employees on their mental and emotional health challenges.
RICE Communications has also made available professional therapy and counselling as part of the enhancement of its mental health benefits this year.
Foodpanda has also given employees access to a well-being app, which provides resources on physical, mental, and career wellbeing. Employees can also approach coaches for one-on-one sessions to deep dive into areas that they need support on.
The government is also taking the issue of mental wellness very seriously.
We have established an inter-agency task force set up to oversee national efforts to promote mental health and well-being beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Manpower has also launched iWorkHealth, an online platform to help companies identify key workplace stressors, the extent of workplace stress and the overall state of mental well-being of their employees. Participating employees also receive individual reports on their mental well-being scores and workplace stressors.
But the Government’s efforts alone are not enough.
I am glad that the tripartite partners came together to issue a Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-being in Workplaces, which includes practical guidance and resources that employers can use to care for their employees’ mental wellness.
I am also encouraged that in the depths of the pandemic, the tripartite partners came together to form an Alliance for Action on Work-Life Harmony, pulling together employers, employees, HR practitioners and other stakeholders. The Alliance has developed useful tools, such as a template on how companies can establish an after-hours work communication policy and set clearer expectations and boundaries on work-related communication after working hours.
The good news is that if employers put in the effort, they can make a huge difference.
Based on research done by Great Place to Work and Johns Hopkins University, they have found that the employees in the 2021 Singapore Best Workplaces have a much more positive work experience.
89% look forward to going to work, as compared to 43% in other companies.
90% would endorse their companies to friends and family as a great place to work, in contrast to 43% for those who do not work in Best Workplaces.
So I want to commend Joni, Evelyn and the team at Great Place to Work Singapore for your excellent work in fostering a better workplace culture here.
There is so much that we can learn from global practices, and I am glad that Great Place to Work continues to share the research and best practices across countries.
I hope the examples of the exemplary companies amongst this year’s award winners will inspire others to strive to create the best possible workplaces for all their employees.
Once again, let me congratulate all the Award winners.
Thank you, and have a great evening.
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