When Mr Anand Kumar was a lieutenant in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), one of his duties included overseeing Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) returning for their In-Camp Training (ICT).
"Some of them shared with me what their companies were doing to support them when they had to go for ICT, and that inspired me to think about policies that I wanted to adopt in my own business," says the 35-year-old, who left the RSAF in 2017.
His firm Allied Kinsmen Environmental Services organises monthly running sessions for employees to help them keep fit. NSman employees also receive $50 or $100 if they achieve the silver or gold award respectively during their annual Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT).
Furthermore, NSman employees who receive military rank promotions gain a five to eight per cent increase in their salary, and may be promoted within the firm too. "We want to reward them for their leadership and other skills acquired during National Service (NS) as these are easily transferable and shared at the workplace, which add great value to the company," explains Mr Anand.
For establishing such pro-NS policies, Allied Kinsmen Environmental Services received the NS Mark (Gold). Launched in 2016, the NS Mark is a national-level accreditation scheme that recognises firms and organisations for supporting NS and Total Defence.
Last year, Allied Kinsmen Environmental Services also progressed to being among the 148 recipients conferred the prestigious NS Advocate Awards at the Total Defence Awards virtual ceremony held on Nov 25. It won an NS Advocate Award for Small and Medium Enterprises.
Mr Ashok Kummar, 33, a team leader in Allied Kinsmen Environmental Services who was appointed to his role after he was promoted from a corporal to a sergeant, says he appreciated his company's support.
"The incentives for doing well in IPPT motivate us to keep fit and fight for a better result. Our supervisors also take care of us in other ways, such as calling us to find out if we are coping well during our ICT," he says.
A better work-life-NS balance
Companies can introduce other policies to enable NSman employees to maintain their health and fitness and be happier at work, say other recipients of the NS Advocate Award.
For example, security firm AETOS Holdings has set up in-house gyms at various sites, and gives NSman employees financial incentives depending on their IPPT grades. The employees also enjoy time off to recover after their ICT stints. "This is to ensure that they get ample rest, so that they are not fatigued when they come back to work," says AETOS Holdings chief executive and executive director Alfred Fox, 47.
"With nearly half of our employees being NSmen, it is essential that we give them peace of mind and strong support when they serve the nation. Being in the security industry ourselves, we understand the importance of NS, and how everyone benefits from the peace and stability of having a strong and operationally-ready military, police and civil defence force," he adds.
Meanwhile, food court chain Food Republic provides subsidised gym memberships to its employees and arranges regular fitness activities as well as talks on how to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Additionally, its parent company, BreadTalk Group, offers free basic health screenings to its staff. "BreadTalk has a youthful workforce, and a good portion of our male employees are still serving as NSmen. By supporting our NSman employees, we can further cement our relationships with them," says deputy group chief executive Jenson Ong.
"Singapore has built a very strong reputation for its national security, and this has been advantageous for us as we develop overseas. We cannot take this for granted. It is pivotal for us to do our part as a corporate citizen by supporting our employees' NS obligations," he says.
At the same time, the firm offers flexibility in shifts so that NSman employees such as BreadTalk operations manager for Food Republic and Food Junction outlets Nick Li, 37, can train for their IPPT before or after work. The gym at BreadTalk's international headquarters in Tai Seng makes it convenient for employees to stay fit too.
"Managing the food courts' operations and travelling between them and the headquarters can get very hectic. Being able to go to the gym at the headquarters and attend fitness classes there saves a lot of time and encourages me to remain fit," says Mr Li.
Both AETOS Holdings and Food Republic progressed from attaining the NS Mark (Gold) accreditation to being conferred the NS Advocate Award for Large Companies at the Total Defence Awards 2020.
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To find out more, visit https://www.ns.sg/web/portal/nsmen/home/employer/employer-recognition/ns-mark or email Lo_Mun_Wah@mindef.gov.sg / Vithya_Sharmini@mindef.gov.sg for enquiries on NS Mark.