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"Employees today are not just seeking a good environment, but also want to feel a sense of purpose at the workplace. This is what drove us to encourage teams to explore projects outside of work that spark joy and inspiration for them," Susan Tang, HR Director for APAC, Meltwater tells us.

It's not every day you see employers encouraging their employees to pursue further interests outside of work; but at online media monitoring company Meltwater's Singapore office (also known as the APAC Headquarters), you'll see just that.

Employees based out of this office have been actively encouraged to take time outside of work to pursue non-work-related hobbies and interests, as the company aims to help them lead more meaningful and well-rounded lives.

The results? Higher engagement, better enablement & social connections, and a clearer work-life blend. 

In this interview, we speak to Susan Tang, HR Director for APAC, Meltwater, to go back to how it all began — what gave her and her team the idea to introduce this concept, how it's being driven, as well as plans to roll out the initiative in Meltwater's other markets.

Q Meltwater actively encourages employees in the APAC HQ to pursue meaningful opportunities outside of work. How did this come about and how is it being driven?

Meltwater believes in providing an inclusive, equitable, and meaningful environment for our team. Employees today are not just seeking a good environment, but also want to feel a sense of purpose at the workplace. This is what drove us to encourage teams to explore projects outside of work that spark joy and inspiration for them. Our employees are now actively pursuing their passions in philanthropy, community services, fitness, music, and arts. We believe these enriching experiences not only improve overall employee wellbeing and performance of our team, but also help them gain a unique perspective on situations at work.

One of our top considerations in implementing this was to make sure that productivity didn’t get impacted. To that end, we encourage our managers and functional heads to stay connected with what employees in their team are pursuing outside of work and factor that into their planning. Beyond this, our flexible working schedule also allows employees to manage their time better and make space for our team to pursue their passions.

Q What were some hurdles you had to overcome in order to gain stakeholder buy-in and roll this out?

Actually, we didn’t have to encounter many hurdles from key stakeholders – from the executive director of APAC to the local leadership team, every single leader has actively supported this initiative. In fact, they don’t just support it but also participate in it themselves!

Q How did employees respond to this?

Organic participation is always heartfelt, better, and more meaningful. A recent employee survey we conducted across APAC saw us score 75% on employee engagement, 83% on enablement, 80% on social connection, 80% on work-life blend, and 82% on opportunity and inclusion – all of which are higher than the industry standard.

priya july 2022 meltwater interview passions interests hobbies susantang provided quote

Q We understand this has currently been rolled out in the Singapore office (APAC HQ). Are you planning to roll it out in the other markets too?

Currently, we are consciously organising community outreach initiatives, wellness activities, DEI days, and CSR days across our Asia Pacific teams to engage employees and other internal audiences.

In line with that, we plan to roll out Community Outreach Leave across the entire APAC region by the end of this year. We understand that each different market will have slightly different practices and cultures, and we want to fully respect that. The team will organise a couple of local events every year to bring people together for a shared purpose, and will leave the rest of the time for our people to choose their own projects.

This initiative aims to encourage meaningful work-life balance by tapping into our people’s inner motivation and encouraging them to pursue activities that they believe will make the world a better place.

Q What is your advice to employers who may be hesitant to introduce such an initiative, and to those who are looking to do so?

My biggest advice would be to evaluate the readiness of your organisation and the leadership team’s appetite for such projects. One way to navigate this successfully is to pilot it at a smaller scale, gather metrics to demonstrate tangible impact, and then bring internal stakeholders onboard to scale it.

Nothing comes without risks. Personally, I also find myself to be a little conservative at times, but one thing I have learnt from my peers and leaders at Meltwater is to be bold and brave by leading changes instead of just facilitating them.

Q On a broader note - how does this initiative convey what Meltwater stands for as an employer & a brand?

At Meltwater, we don’t just want to focus on the ‘job’ that someone has to do, but on how we can make the lives of our employees more meaningful and fulfilling. We don’t just want to stop at being a leader in the SaaS space – we aspire to become an industry leader in people practices and social responsibility, and we act accordingly.

In conjunction with volunteer leave, we have also launched a “Work with Balance” programme in APAC which enables our people to follow a hybrid work model to get the best of both worlds, and gives different groups (such as parents, caregivers, disability group, people who need medical care, etc.) more flexibility.

Q On the personal front – what non-work-related project/interest are you currently passionate about, in your own pursuit of the work-life blend?

When I’m not working in the office or spending time with my family, I fill my days with fitness and yoga. I used to be an ambassador for Adidas some years ago (before I became a mother) and my goal now is to get back into peak physical shape. If you are passionate about barre/yoga, I’d love to connect and swap stories!


Image / Shutterstock

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