Companies hold parties, start regular social programmes to get workers back to the office

A welcome back party held by US software company Workday at its office in the CBD here. PHOTO: WORKDAY

SINGAPORE - In the first week of May, software company Workday held a welcome back party for its 130 employees with food and drinks, as well as kicked off a weekly Thursday Happy Hour at its office in the Central Business District - an area which has sprung back to life in recent weeks. Employees who came to work also got a free lunch every day in April.

The American company hopes these initiatives will boost employee engagement and create positive experiences at the workplace, while giving its employees more opportunities to bond, said its president of Asia, Mr Sandeep Sharma.

Like Workday, other companies here are enticing workers back into the office with parties and reorientation programmes, while simultaneously looking to make permanent the hybrid work arrangements brought on by the pandemic.

Mr Sharma said Workday will give employees the flexibility to choose when and how often they come into the office.

He told The Straits Times: "As safe management measures ease and employees are able to return to the office, we strongly believe in empowering our employees with the ability to adjust and maintain work-life harmony, based on each individual's unique circumstances."

Adjustments to working life in Singapore are still being navigated even as the Republic returns to a pre-pandemic state, with all capacity caps lifted from workplaces on April 26.

CIMB Singapore, which employs about 1,000 people here split between two offices in Raffles Place and Changi Business Park, welcomed its employees back to the office with an event on May 6 to celebrate Labour Day and Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

CIMB Singapore head of human resources Jaime Rosario said the bank will also throw a breakfast and organise games for employees on the first Friday of every month.

She said: "At CIMB, we believe that strong social bonds built at work are key to our employee's well-being and organisation culture.

"There is a social aspect of working together in the office that is difficult for virtual work arrangements to replicate."

She added that the bank has permanently adopted hybrid work and allows for staggered hours and flexible three-days-in-office arrangements for certain roles.

Some firms have also restarted perks and programmes for their returning workers.

Real estate firm Guocoland has restarted a fruit distribution programme that it had in place before the pandemic began, to sweeten its employees' return.

GuocoLand employees are given fruit such as apples, bananas and mangoes once a month to promote a healthy lifestyle.

As a landlord, GuocoLand is also making efforts to ease its tenants' employees' return to the office.

At Guoco Tower in Tanjong Pagar, the company has started twice weekly workout sessions of piloxing and zumba for office workers, a spokesman for GuocoLand told ST.

An exercise session organised for returning employees at Guoco Tower's Urban Park. PHOTO: GUOCOLAND

GuocoLand will also resume a programme called Sweet Treats, where the company offers discount vouchers to its office tenants in Guoco Tower for the 49 food and beverage outlets and 19 retail shops in the building.

Programmes and parties held for returning workers can help foster a sense of belonging and camaraderie, said experts.

Dr David Leong, managing director of human resource firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting, workers are now used to working from home but the easing of restrictions may still bring some joy.

He said: "Over the last two years, colleagues have been spatially separated, and work was conducted remotely from homes.

"Social interactions were minimised, and this caused stress and tension."

But not all experts are convinced that this is the right way forward for companies.

Mr Paul Heng, managing director of NeXT Career Consulting Group, said companies may not be using their resources effectively by trying to attract workers back to the office with parties and programmes.

"Workers are unlikely to be won over just because you throw a party.

"It is time bosses take a more realistic look at what has changed, what needs to be done differently, and what they need to pay attention to moving forward."

He added that companies should perhaps be spending resources on studying what working arrangements their employees prefer or to reimagine what perks can look like - offering the example of a possible allowance to buy a comfortable chair for the home.

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