SMU receives the inaugural Culture of Acceptance, Respect and Empathy (CARE) award at this year’s Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Awards

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:

  • A 24/7 counselling service and resources via Employee Assistance Programme for employees and their immediate family members.
  • Offering employees a suite of health and fitness programmes such as:

   - 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.

  • A benefits programme with regular enhancements to better support employees. In 2022, SMU implemented the “3F Policy” (Flexi-place, Flexi-hours and Flexi-benefits) – to enhance employees’ work-life balance and better facilitate their engagement in wellness initiatives, family care responsibilities and self-care. Its work-from-home arrangements, flexible start-work and stop-work times, subsidies for wellbeing activities and self-care activities (such as staycations, ergonomic home-office setups, fitness and health-related expenses) enhance employee empowerment and promote employee self-care.

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:

  • A comprehensive range of health, fitness and social programmes organised by two committees: Work on Wellness (WOW) Committee and University Social Club (USC). Both committees are led by staff volunteers.
  • A network of some 60 student peer helpers and 60 First Responders (employee volunteers) to provide immediate emotional support and referral to wellbeing support to both students and employees in distress or need.
  • A team of 32 Employee Engagement Ambassadors (EEAs) who work on university projects to improve employee engagement and morale.

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.