With a gold win for Excellence in Work-Life Harmony and a Silver win for Excellence in Workplace Wellbeing at HR Excellence Awards 2020, Singapore, Sanjiv Agarwal, Head HR SEA, Swiss Re tells Priya Veeriah about the cultural nuances that have created a positive and supportive culture built on common interests.

Q What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?

 At Swiss Re, we want to build and sustain an environment that protects and promotes a culture of wellbeing at work and supports work-life harmony.

We also want to ensure our employees have the tools to make them more resilient and feel happy and engaged at work. Having this flexibility to achieve work-life harmony has been key. We also believe in offering innovative wellbeing initiatives which have positively impacted engagement and motivation levels.

Q How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in helping make this initiative a reality?

Swiss Re's senior leadership in Asia and our Zurich headquarters both recognise the importance of and prioritise employee wellbeing. They are fully supportive of the benefits that this brings, not only during the COVID-19 pandemic but even before this emerged on the radar screen.

We have had many wellbeing initiatives supported by our leadership, including Own The Way You Work (OTWYW). The OTWYW initiative allows everyone at Swiss Re to flexibly manage how they get their work done in a way that fits the company's needs as well as their own. 

Individuals can organise their day around their work as well as other commitments to better balance their different priorities in life. Gone are the days when 'facetime' in the office counted more than business results. 

Q Unexpected roadblocks are part and parcel of executing any initiative. What were some of the barriers that you and your team experienced while rolling this out, and how did you successfully get past them?

I think we will all agree that 2020 has been an unprecedented, extraordinary and difficult time for many of us. Working virtually for extended periods of time has not been smooth for everyone, but we have been able to put a number of initiatives in place to help our employees. Some of these initiatives include: virtual fitness classes, resilience webinars, and even establishing our very own Radio show for employees.

The radio show covers aspects of employee's life outside of the workplace – hobbies, interests, issues, talents etc. This is a very popular initiative binding employees of Swiss Re across different teams and locations, coming together every Friday to listen in to each other and share common interests, and share how we're coping under the circumstances.

Q As evidenced by the win, this initiative clearly delivered some amazing results. What was your gameplan for measuring ROI? What are some proud achievements you can share with us on this front?

We are very proud to say that our engagement results have been strong. Given the complex environment this year and the uncertainty this has caused for many, this is something we are particularly proud of. Around 95% of our employees feel Swiss Re is actively looking after the well-being of its employees. We worked hard to achieve this and we will continue so that our staff continue to feel fully supported.

Feedback from employees on the wellness initiatives has also been really positive. The virtual fitness classes were popular with staff as it not only presented an opportunity to get fit, but it brought colleagues together as they opened up their homes – and lives - virtually. 

Q How do you think work-life harmony integrates with and boosts workplace wellbeing? What is your organisation’s stand on this?

When people are in a good state of wellbeing and work-life harmony, we believe they are able to develop their full potential and work productively and creatively. In addition this balance builds positive relationships with others, helps cope with the normal stresses of life and allows us to make meaning contributions overall.

If our employees' wellbeing is compromised, this can lead to employee burnout and stress, and in turn increase turnover and absenteeism. Our goal is to create a culture that nurtures positive wellbeing and provide relevant support to ensure that our colleagues do not experience undue stress or burnout.

Workplace wellbeing is a top priority and we have invested a lot of time and effort into producing wellness initiatives which have made a difference.

As a HR team, we are all very proud to have been part of creating and contributing to achieving Work-Life Harmony and the overall Wellness Culture at Swiss Re we have currently, and we are looking forward to even more initiatives that we believe help employee wellbeing and overall productivity. This keeps us going.

Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section! 

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