Working from home can be tough, even if it is a job you were already doing before Covid-19 hit. But it is a bigger mountain to climb when you are starting a new job during the pandemic.
“Despite the challenging circumstances, my colleagues found ways to welcome me and help me forge strong relationships within the organisation,” recalls Mr Kelvin Gan, senior executive with group investment at Frasers Property. He joined the company in 2020.
The homegrown multinational real estate and property management company develops, owns, and manages properties in commercial, residential, hospitality, retail, and industrial and logistics sectors across the globe.
“From introductory welcome packs and home-made drinks from HR to virtual ‘coffee chats’ and lunch gatherings, I felt constantly supported during those trying times,” says Mr Gan.
His experience is illustrative of the type of culture that Frasers Property has cultivated through the years — one where collaboration and learning are encouraged, anchored by a supportive environment where values like kindness, respect and empathy are prized.
To Mr Chia Khong Shoong, group chief corporate officer, the formula is pretty simple. “It’s just about taking good care of our employees and their overall well-being, and investing in their learning,” he says.
Treasuring its staff has resulted in generous employee benefits, including gender-neutral compassionate leave for pregnancy loss. Investing in learning has meant a wealth of options such as virtual training, webinars, self-paced e-learning and leadership programmes, as well as events such as a six-day global Learning Festival. The festival was held for the second year in 2021 to encourage organisational learning and cross-sharing.
The company is ranked one of Singapore's best employers in 2022, according to a list compiled by The Straits Times and global research firm Statista. It is ranked 51st overall, and third in the real estate category.
Fostering healthy bonds
Most impressive though is the company’s ability to seed and nurture meaningful relationships among its people.
“The vibes in the workplace have been such that I have been able to build good rapport with colleagues, and some have grown into genuine friendships,” says Ms Angela Ng, head of retail design management. “Leaders and people managers often take the initiative to mingle with junior members.”
Mr Chia says: “We have tried to build a wellness culture where we positively engage employees, support mental wellness and foster a connected workforce, as well as create a safe and inclusive working environment.”
All this was put to the test when Covid-19 struck in 2020. One of the first things Frasers Property did was to make sure the transition to working from home was smooth. “The company put in place good infrastructure and solutions, so that we could continue to deliver consistent work during this period,” notes Ms Ng.
Employees appreciate the trust the company puts in them in a remote working situation. “Pre-pandemic I often had to take annual leave for personal and family matters,” says Ms Muliati Mohammad, a governance, risk & compliance senior executive, support specialist.
“During Covid-19, when we were working from home most of the time, I didn’t need to take as many days off anymore. My manager gave us the flexibility to manage our own time and provided the trust we needed to perform.”
As the pandemic continues, Frasers Property has recognised the need to prioritise mental health. It has provided trained staff who can support such needs, and employees have access to a programme where a team of specialist counsellors help to tackle personal or work-related issues.
In addition, Frasers Property organised virtual fitness challenges and utilised a social-focused platform, Workplace by Meta, for active sharing. It also distributed corporate care packs to all its Singapore-based staff.
“Receiving that really brought optimism and cheer,” recalls Ms Ng.
Checking in and communicating
What is really crucial amid the pandemic is encouraging people to talk to one another, beyond work issues.
“While virtual meetings can help people connect, it’s important to encourage conversations that are not work-related,” says Mr Chia. “For instance, setting aside 30 minutes or an hour a week for a team check-in, during which the only topic off the table is work. At the heart of psychological safety is the feeling that we can openly and respectfully share what we think or feel without fear of negative consequences.”
As Singapore emerges from the worst of the pandemic, Frasers Property can safely say that it is thriving after navigating the challenges.
“I don’t feel that the pandemic impacted the relationship I have with my team,” says Ms Roxanne Lee, community manager, noting that the bond is as strong as ever. “On days we’ve headed back, we’ve organised workout sessions together after work like our Run to Eat club and vertical staircase climbs during lunchtime.”
Reflecting on the last two years and how the company pulled through, Mr Chia says: “We’ve always encouraged our people to reach out to care and support one another. “Our strength has always been the connections people here have with one another. Fostering strong social connections within a team helps build emotional resilience.”