Hospital staff rock out in jamming studio to recharge

Public institutions are providing imaginative recreational facilities in the workplace to promote work-life balance among their staff

Ngee Ann Polytechnic has a recreation room with facilities for pool, table soccer, board games and karaoke. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN
Ngee Ann Polytechnic has a recreation room with facilities for pool, table soccer, board games and karaoke. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN
The lactation room (above) at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital has five cubicles equipped with breast pumps and other features. -- PHOTO: KK WOMEN’S AND CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL
The National Environment Agency has do-it-yourself health corners (above) for staff to measure their blood pressure and weight, as well as test their eyesight. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT AGENCY
At Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s jamming studio are (front row from left) nurse clinician Laley Senawi (cajon), nurse manager Chio Cheng Kay (guitar), registered nurse Grace Tan (keyboard); (back row, from left) nurse manager James Ang (bass guitar), staff nurse George Glass (guitar), staff nurse Benjamin Ramki (drums) and enrolled nurse Mynelle Salas (mic). -- PHOTO: TAN TOCK SENG HOSPITAL

Nurse manager James Ang, 31, loves jamming with his colleagues. Now, he can rock with them without leaving his workplace.

His employer, Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH), created a studio on its premises two years ago for staff jam sessions before or after their shifts.

He says: "We always feel physically recharged after jamming. Sometimes, our sessions turn into peer support sessions and I also get to mingle with staff of all ranks and ages from other departments."

Once the enviable perk of working on private companies' high-tech "campuses" (yes, Google, we are talking about you), creative and thoughtful staff facilities are becoming almost de rigueur in public institutions.

Public hospitals, polytechnics and other agencies are providing staff with imaginative recreational facilities and parent-friendly spaces in a bid to fine-tune employees' work-life balance. Besides TTSH's jamming studio, other institutions have karaoke rooms, childcare centres, lactation rooms and staff lounges overflowing with free snacks and drinks.

Human resource experts say public institutions are introducing them to attract and retain talent, especially young workers. TTSH's studio, for example, has a guitar, drum set, two electric keyboards and percussion instruments donated by current and former staff.

Staff lounges in public institutions are sprucing up their features. One of TTSH's lounges, built last year, has a pool table, three Internet kiosks and a 32-inch TV that airs paid sports channels.

At Ngee Ann Polytechnic, its 2,200 sq ft staff lounge offers a free flow of beverages including espresso, hot chocolate, macchiato and green tea. The polytechnic also has a 1,055 sq ft recreation room with facilities for pool, karaoke, table soccer, Scrabble and board games.

Says social media manager Ronald Wan, 30, who plays pool, table soccer and sings karaoke in the recreation room once a week during his lunch break: "Singing helps me and my colleagues de-stress and get to know one another better. It's great for bonding."

Staff at most polytechnics can make use of existing facilities for students, including swimming pools, beach volleyball courts, rock climbing walls, and badminton and tennis courts.

Most institutions also have lactation rooms and at least three hospitals have childcare centres onsite or nearby. Ms Valerie Goh, a senior medical social worker at KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH), sends her two-year-old son and four-month-old daughter to a childcare centre - exclusively for children of the hospital staff - across the road from her workplace.

The 30-year-old also uses the hospital's lactation room two or three times a day. This room has five cubicles equipped with breast pumps, as well as steam sterilisers, refrigerators, sinks and storage cabinets.

Says Ms Goh: "The room saves me the hassle of having to bring a breast pump and accessories to and from work daily. I also feel more at ease knowing my children are nearby."

The Public Service Division, which oversees human resource policies for the civil service, says of the work-life facilities in public agencies: "These help to sustain healthy lifestyles, healthy minds and healthy relationships at the workplace, providing a nurturing and caring work environment for our public officers.

"Ultimately, a happy workforce will give its best at work to better serve the public."

The National Environment Agency's office in Scotts Road has do-it-yourself health corners, with blood pressure monitors, weighing machines and eye charts. Ms Tanlyn Liaw, 33, a senior executive in the agency's customer and quality service department, uses these facilities every two months to keep track of her weight and blood pressure. She says: "Doing a health check at work helps me keep my weight in control."

Human resource experts say having such work-life facilities are part of the public institutions' bid to attract talent and keep them happy. Private companies are known to have more lavish facilities, including massage chairs, jackpot rooms, diners and even spas.

Mr Erman Tan, 50, president of the Singapore Human Resources Institute, says: "Facilities are one way to attract and retain talent, especially Gen Y staff. This is the generation who would spend money to enjoy such facilities outside of the office."

Indeed, says Mr Dominic Tung, 46, manager for human resource wellness at TTSH: "Our work-life initiatives enhance our competitiveness to attract talent. They also have a positive impact on a staff member's decision to remain with an employer."

But experts say that, compared to private companies, public institutions tend to be more careful about splashing out on facilities as they are funded - fully or partially - by taxpayers' money.

Says Mr Joshua Yim, 50, chief executive officer of human resource consultancy Achieve Group: "They certainly would not want to be so ostentatious and become the talk of the town in a negative way."

Mr Ronald Lee, 61, managing director of PrimeStaff Management Services, adds that facilities are "non- critical expenditure" and excessive spending can attract unwelcome criticism from the public.

Workers in public institutions nevertheless have their wishlists of facilities they hope to see at work.

Mr Sheikh Zamil, 35, an operations executive with TTSH, wants arcade machines "to play and destress during lunch and/or after work".

Ms Sarah Lim, 28, a publications executive with Ngee Ann Polytechnic, wants sleeping pods "where people can take 20-minute power naps and feel recharged for work in the afternoon".

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