Dive into FWAs with HRO and TAFEP as leaders from media company Hoods Inc. Productions, and education and training facility The School of Positive Psychology, teach a trick or two.
If there’s a workplace phenomenon as frequently talked about as ‘The Great Resignation’, it has to be flexible work arrangements (FWAs). So apparent it is that, in Singapore, FWAs are highlighted in parliamentary debates, and advocated for across global conferences.
As an exclusive, Human Resources Online, along with the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), reached out to Hoods Inc. Productions’ CEO & Co-Founder Esan Sivalingam and Co-Founder & Managing Director Bratina Tay (pictured above, far left & centre); and Stephen Lew, Founder & Executive Director, The School of Positive Psychology (pictured above, far right), to understand how FWAs have been the core of how the business operates, and how they have been reaping the benefits.
Q What were some of the FWAs instituted prior to, and during the pandemic?
Sivalingam: We have several. Prior to 2020, we had in place creative scheduling, where all staff were eligible for flexible and specific scheduling based on their needs – for instance, there were two employees who did it for between seven to 12 consecutive years according to their family obligations, wedding preparations, home renovations, and even gym and caretaking schedule.
The other was ‘Phasing In or Out’. This is where employees had the opportunity to fleet from full-time to part-time to freelance, and back to full-time or part-time. Since 2021, we have also introduced an annual/biannual full health screening that is fully paid for by the organisation.
Lew: Our flexibility has always been in place and time. Our employees used to be able to work from home (WFH) whenever they needed to, with certain departments getting to do so every other Friday. In terms of time, as long as employees get their work done, and work the required hours, they can start anytime between 10am to 12pm, as long as there is staff at the school during the opening hours.
However, during the pandemic, when classes were all moved online, WFH became the new norm. Additionally, with a lot of weekend and night classes, we gave employees the autonomy to decide what time they prefer to start based on their schedule for the day. We found that employees appreciated that, with some choosing to start work at 8.30am so they can end work earlier, and some at 1pm as they have night classes to manage till 10pm. On top of that, employees also started receiving two days of ‘Mental Health Days’ per month.
Q The concept of ‘Phasing In or Out’ is one that’s not commonly heard of – how did the idea to implement this come about?
Sivalingam: We started doing it because media production is very erratic. While we were working on Under One Roof and Phua Chu Kang, we noticed quite a few good creatives were leaving because there was no option available to fleet between full-time, part-time, and freelance (depending on their ever-changing family or personal commitments).
Once we started Hoods Inc, we realised that being a small company, we had the flexibility to implement it, so we decided to provide that option for our employees after they have worked with us for a minimum of one year as full-time staff.
Q What are some key results you’ve observed since the implementation of your FWAs – and which initiative has seen the most uptake/traction?
Loyalty, trust, better communication, greater productivity, and a stronger camaraderie in the team are some benefits.
Even though our FWAs don’t impact all staff who come through our doors (or don’t impact everyone the same way), we find that the ones who do stay on, despite the pressure, expectations, workload, and deadlines, make the company more competitive, and a happier workplace.
All staff are informed on peak and off-peak periods so they can plan their breaks. We also found the initiatives with the most traction are:
- Employees’ choice day off
- Phasing In or Out
- Mental wellness days off
Lew: What we have noticed is that this arrangement fosters a friendlier and more supportive work environment that grows with the employees. We have employees who have family responsibilities and/or are pursuing part-time studies, so the flexibility is important to them.
Q What is your advice to other SMEs who are hesitant to implement such FWAs due to concerns around face time, engagement, and productivity?
Sivalingam: Most of our initiatives arose out of need (for the company) or out of concern (for staff). Hence, a lot of trial and error was done to curate FWAs that could fit the individual needs of staff.
The one thing we can say is, there’s no one size fits all. Every employee has different needs, concerns, and requirements.
Consider utilising FWAs to get the best you can from each individual. Having two-way and open communication also helps, so both parties see things from each other’s perspectives. It has definitely helped us (a smaller, but stronger team) with a subsequent rise in productivity and morale.
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, research has shown that organisational engagement and performance improve when the workplace implements wellbeing and people-centric strategies.
FWA is one such strategy. Companies can always pilot an FWA, and measure the results three months later.
A sustainable FWA is not going to happen overnight. We found it helpful to co-create the FWA together with our staff so that it can support not just our employees, but our business goals as well. It will take time to experiment with the different possibilities due to teething issues which may occur during the process. At the end of the day, SMEs need to be adaptable and constantly evolve their HR policies to stay relevant and be able to attract and retain good talent.
Both Hoods Inc. Productions Pte Ltd and The School of Positive Psychology are adopters of the Tripartite Standards (TS). The TS consist of a series of good employment practices that are important for all employers to implement and allow organisations to differentiate themselves as progressive employers. Visit tafep.sg to find out more about the Tripartite Standards.
This article first appeared in the Q2 edition of Human Resources Online's Southeast Asia e-magazine. View a copy of the e-magazine here, where you'll find power-packed features and interviews with leaders from Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and more!
Photos / Provided; Pictured from L-R: Esan Sivalingam, CEO & Co-Founder, Hoods Inc. Productions; Bratina Tay, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Hoods Inc. Productions, and Stephen Lew, Founder & Executive Director, The School of Positive Psychology.