The Singapore Management University (SMU) recently received the inaugural Culture of Acceptance, Respect and Empathy (CARE) award at this year’s Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Awards.
The CARE Award is a new category and recognises businesses that have made outstanding contributions to promoting workplace mental health. Eight organisations, including SMU, received this award. It was among the 235 companies and individuals honoured at this year's WSH Awards.
At SMU, its focus is not only about offering a comprehensive wellbeing programme but also on creating a culture of wellbeing. It takes on a comprehensive and multi-pronged approach, both bottom up and top-down, to building this culture of shared ownership and involvement for wellbeing. A few examples of its wellbeing programme are:
- Two free health checks annually;
- Weekly fitness-related programmes;
- Monthly health talks and workshops on health, emotional and mental wellbeing, including social and community-bonding events (e.g. floral arrangement, aromatherapy, talk on Sustainability at Marina Barrage, etc.);
- Annual SMU community events such as the SMU Amazing Race, Family Day, Dinner & Dance, and Smoo Challenge.
One of the hallmarks of SMU’s approach to creating a culture of care and wellbeing is the shared ownership – involvement and leadership of staff and students. It has a strong internal network of wellbeing ambassadors who organise and lead wellbeing efforts. These include the following:
In addition, senior leadership also adopts intentional communication to start conversations around wellbeing and mental health, to encourage employees and students to practise self-care, and de-stigmatise mental health conditions. At the SMU Heartbeat (staff townhall) in May 2022, SMU President, Professor Lily Kong, shared personal anecdotes on how she practises self-care by taking long walks and writing poems.
Externally, SMU has also established partnerships with other organisations to collaborate on programmes to enhance employee wellbeing. These include collaborations with Health Promotion Board (HPB), Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), and companies in the financial district on Healthy Workplace Ecosystem (HWE) initiatives to tap into national wellbeing resources, programmes and support. SMU also partners with the Centre for Fathering, South Central Community Family, Singapore National Eye Centre, Singapore Heart Foundation, and many others for community and outreach projects.
Indeed, SMU’s efforts are paying off and its employees are becoming healthier. It saw a significant reduction in outpatient sick leave days and a corresponding decrease in medical insurance claims from 2019 - 2021. This was during the height of the pandemic. Also, its annual health screening reports from 2021 have shown that SMU employees attained healthier-than-national-average scores in markers of obesity, high cholesterol issues and Type 2 diabetes.
In the last few years, SMU had also won three other awards – the Silver Ribbon Mental Health Awards (2020) in recognition of its efforts to create a mentally friendly and healthy learning environment; the Great Companies for Dads Awards (2021); and The Straits Times ‘Best Employers Award (2021). This is testament to SMU’s strong culture of care and wellbeing for its employees.
Terence Tan, SMU Vice President of Human Resources and Faculty Administration, remarked: “Winning a business award is an exciting achievement and an honour. It feels great to have the University’s hard work and dedication recognised by a prominent organisation like the Workplace Safety and Health Council. It is also an endorsement of how different groups in SMU have come together as one, to promote and build a culture of wellbeing. Moving forward, SMU will continue to focus on our employee value proposition of cultivating an environment of health, safety, inclusion, and dynamism so that our employees can perform at their best at work and grow professionally.”
Hear more from Terence on what motivates SMU to create a culture that promotes mental well-being in the workplace.
Congratulations once again to SMU for clinching the CARE award and for promoting a culture of care and mental wellbeing at work.