The Snitch

Just a little of everything HR

Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category

Sleeping at work? A dream comes true!

leave a comment »

They have always said that everything you need to know you learn in kindergarten, and one of the biggest things I took away from my pre-school education was the need for afternoon naps.

So when I came across an online article while doing some research (read: taking a break and checking Facebook – yes, I’m back on that bandwagon) that said naps at work not only boost productivity but also reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems, I was thrilled.


There is actual science behind this. When a person is tired, neurons in the brain shut off, which essentially means that while your body is awake, your brain is fast asleep. Taking a quick 15-minute nap helps you recharge and get those neurons up and running again.

In fact, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley confirmed in 2010 that napping also improves the brain’s ability to retain information. They added that mid-day naps “not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neuro-cognitive level, moves you beyond where you were before”.

But isn’t it bad enough that employees are already taking breaks for coffee and cigarettes? Will bosses really be okay with workers disappearing for 15 minutes at a time to catch up on some sleep?

Thankfully, I have friends in high places and decided to give them a call to get their take on what I hope will be the next great office fad.

Douglas Gan, founder and chief executive officer of location-based service provider ShowNearby, tells me he doesn’t mind his employees sleeping at work. The last time I visited their office for lunch, Douglas even pointed out the couch in one of the bigger offices and proudly told me, “That’s where some of the guys take naps”.

What’s more, he doesn’t limit how long they can nap for and even encourages his staff to work from home if they’re too tired to come into the office. No wonder ShowNearby was one of the recipients of Asia’s Best Employer Brand Awards this year.

“Naps can help them get rid of a tired mind and move forward,” Douglas says. “Also, I think because they appreciate the fact that they can nap, they tend to work better when they’re awake.”

However, not everyone is onboard with the idea of napping at work. Edvarcl Heng, social media manager at MediaCom, says instead of naps, his employees are allowed to take breaks as often as they like, as long as productivity isn’t affected.

“They are also equipped with Nerf guns (a type of toy gun which shoots foam bullets) and games on their Macs as an explicit nod from management that we will not frown upon fun,” Ed says.

On top of the fun and games, employees are also allowed to go out to buy titbits (another one of my favourite break-time activities), surf the Internet and play games with each other. “A worker is not an automaton. They need rest to boost their productivity,” Ed says.

While writing this blog entry, I was also multi-tasking (talking to my best friend) and found out that the only reason he hadn’t replied my messages the past hour was because he was – you guessed it – taking a nap at work. He claims to even have a sleeping bag in the office, but that’s information I’ll take with a grain of salt.

“The trick is to get the duration just right. 15 minutes to half an hour tops,” he advises, sounding like a professional nap-taker. “Anything less won’t help and too long will make you groggy when you wake up.”

But does it really help with his productivity for the rest of the day? “Yeah, definitely!” he says. “How else do you think I get through the day?”

Well, I guess it all comes down to the industry and nature of the business you are in.

Let me know which side of the fence you’re on by leaving a comment or sending me a message on Twitter (@theofficesnitch).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to have a quick talk with my bosses on setting up a designated nap area in our new office.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

September 2, 2011 at 11:23 am

Small Talk on lying employees and coffee addicts

leave a comment »

Singapore – Some employees are so determined to not go into the office that they would spend days faking symptoms to appear more credible when taking sick leave.

A new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has found that two in five employees would fake symptoms before calling in sick. Worryingly, 5% even said they would resort to using things like crutches and make-up to be more believable.

The report suggested employers have to hone in on the underlying reasons behind why their staff are willing to go to such measures to miss work.

“Rather than a sign of laziness, unwarranted absence can mean people are under-used,” Neil Roden, human resources (HR) consulting partner at PwC, said. “Employers need to think creatively on how they can get people back in gear.”

Another top story that Small Talk is discussing this week is the top companies business graduates yearn to work for. According to a survey by Universum, Google earned the top spot for the fifth year running, with technology companies and consulting firms deemed most desirable employers as they can provide challenging work.

Russ Hagey, worldwide chief talent officer for Bain & Co, said young talent are concerned about “where they’re going to be challenged and excited”.

Additionally, Small Talk explores why Unilever’s HR boss says Asia’s supply of talent has to keep up with economic and business growth. John Nolan, its senior vice president of HR, suggests that companies have better chances of retaining their workforce if they hold a longer term view on investing in talent and coaching them.

Small Talk also reveals why coffee addicts are more harmful to a company’s productivity than smokers.

HRTV: Google and Sony on job satisfaction

with one comment

Singapore – Managers at Google are encouraged to help their staff achieve at least one non-work related goal in their life so every employee can foster better work-life balance.

Known as the “One Simple Thing” programme, Google employees are urged to focus on one personal target, such as an exercise regime or mastering a new language. Their managers then show their support through easy steps like keeping the employee’s schedules free or giving them time off for classes.

Sarah Robb, head of people operations for Google in Asia Pacific (APAC), said this helps staff feel that they can be equally successful in achieving both business objectives and personal goals.

Narihiko Uemura, managing director for Sony Electronics in Singapore and APAC, said it is important that companies engage their employees by listening to their needs.

Robb added when employees believe that the company is genuinely invested in their interests and makes them feel valued, attrition levels will fall.

The search giant also has a quarterly budget set aside for “fun” activities. “For us, it comes down to a culture of fun,” Robb said.

Other engagement initiatives Google has include activities such as after-work drinks on Fridays, and regular town hall meetings where senior leaders field questions from staff.

At Sony, employees would be asked to participate in regular surveys to help senior management determine job satisfaction levels and identify gaps within the organisation.

However, Uemura said companies should allow employees to write their own opinions or give honest feedback in the surveys if they genuinely want to improve their engagement processes.

Yet Uemura, who reads every single feedback form received, did once ask his staff to write about the “good things” in the company. “I need to read good things too so I will feel happy,” he joked.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

July 20, 2011 at 11:00 am

HRTV: Small Talk on workaholic countries

leave a comment »

Singapore – Locals may consider themselves hardworking employees, but Singapore is not even on the top ten list of most workaholic countries.

A recent survey by Ipsos Global and Reuters found Japan to be the most workaholic country, with an average of 1,714 work hours a year. Is it a coincidence then that more Japanese employees are also reported to commit suicide after being unable to find a job?

Japan’s unemployment rate has remained unchanged at 4.9% since December last year, prompting suicide rates to increase 20% amongst youths. Lee Xieli and Sabrina Zolkifi sit down and discuss those hot topics, including working women, unhappy employees and the employment outlook for Singaporeans.

Human Resources Website
Follow us on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

March 14, 2011 at 9:43 am

Let your hand do the destressing

leave a comment »

Hand reflexology can instantly ease away stress, headaches and pain. It doesn’t matter if you are an office exec who gets tension headaches or simply someone who wants to reduce trips to the doctor. Hand reflexology benefits everyone. Massaging certain points on the palm can instantly relieve stress- which is the main cause of many diseases out there.

Here are some of hand exercises tips recommended by Advanced Health Group:

1) Interlocking fingers – Cross your 10 fingers with strength and slowly loosen the grip. Repeat this 3 to 5 times. It will stimulate the central nervous system and release stress from working or studying.

2) Fingertip massage – With your palm facing up, press and massage each finger entirely for 1 minute. Spend more time on aching fingertips. This helps to reduce headaches and boosts concentration. Massage the thumb for the brain, index finger for digestive system, middle finger for heart, ring finger for liver and the pinky for your kidney.

3) Finger stretching – Cross your fingers and extend your arms forward to maximum length, hold them there and move up for 3 to 5 times. This stretches your arms and prevents hands, arms, shoulder and waist discomfort. This exercise is ideal for workers who spend the day facing computers.

4) Piano playing – To prevent cardiovascular diseases, pretend you are playing the piano on the table for 3 minutes. This is especially good for those who party hard and entertain.

Written by nasirah

February 13, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Healthcare

Open plan offices aren’t all that great

with 5 comments

Are you falling sick often and feeling more stressed out at work? If your office has an open-plan layout, there is a possibility that this office design could be the cause of your condition.

Research has found that having an open-plan design can have an overwhelmingly negative impact on employees, with 90% reporting a deterioration of health and adverse psychological effects. Conflict, elevated blood pressure and rapid staff turnover are all associated with open-plan offices as well.

“Employees can face a lot of problems like the loss of privacy, loss of identity, low work productivity and low job satisfaction when working in an open plan work environment,” says Dr Vinesh Oomen, research author from the Queensland University of Technology.

So while an open-plan office can help save on precious space and promote higher interaction among co-workers, it can also make you sick and stressed as well. What do you think? Do the benefits of an open plan environment outweigh the costs?


Written by nasirah

January 19, 2009 at 11:41 am

Posted in Healthcare

Google goes Ommm

leave a comment »

Apparently Google wants to do more than just help employees develop their career and skill sets as they are interested in employees’ spirituality.  At a recently held a spirituality seminar called “Happiness and Its Causes”,  one of Google’s top employees talked about a new school on Google University – the School of Personal Growth.

Chade-Meng Tan, a panelist at the conference and one of Google’s early engineers suggested that Google’s School of Personal Growth is a futuristic model for every workplace. “Google wants to help Googlers grow as human beings on all levels,” Tan said in his presentation.  Employees can take classes that deal with mental development, emotional development, holistic health and well-being, and a Buddhist notion of “beyond the self”. Classes are aptly named “The Neuroscience of Empathy” and “Search Inside Yourself.”

The company’s strategy is to boost the brainstorming powers of Google’s  crème de la crème and their powers of self- examination. Monika Broecker, a former leadership coach and therapist with Google, who was an architect of the program, said, “It’s very effective because studies have proven that if people are relaxed and open, they won’t repeat the same ideas and mistakes. They become more creative.”

Have you heard of any other companies engaging in such less conventional programs? It does sound useful to me, because when everything else seems to be falling apart or stressing you out, it would definitely be useful to locate the inner strength to help tide you over.

Google has made no public announcement about their educational endeavor but to read more, click here.

Written by nasirah

January 14, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Detroit’s problem of employee healthcare

leave a comment »

Much talk is going on right now on whether the US government should bail out their local automobile industry (ie. Chrysler, General Motors and Ford). Part of the reason why these manufacturers are unable to compete with the likes of Honda and Toyota is because of the high pension wages and employee healthcare insurance which the Big Three companies have to foot. This is unlike in countries in Japan, where employee insurance is covered by the government.

According to a Washington Post article:

The Big Three pay much higher wages than production workers are paid in the nonunion auto firms and in the general economy. And the health-care costs of current workers and retired union members are an enormous additional burden.

Of course the whole blame cannot be placed on the cost of employee salaries and healthcare alone. The failure to produce anything other than SUVs and poor senior management is also reason for why Detroit is failing.

But it brings up a  pertinent question. In a globalised economy where bottom-line costs help determine how competitive a company is, who should bear healthcare costs? The government, employers or employees themselves?

I was sitting beside the very charismatic CEO of Opus IT Services, Charles Fan, earlier at the Enterprise 50 awards lunch today when this subject came up. From his perspective running a local SME, healthcare costs is definitely an issue which he deals with, and one which needs to be kept under control.

But even within MNCs, there is a trend is of moving away from an all-comprehensive healthcare package. More companies are starting to ask employees to co-pay part of the insurance or/and medication.

It is inevitable that healthcare cost is Asia will keep on rising due to longer lifespans and a shift to chronic lifestyle diseases. So what are some strategies companies are doing to keep costs low? Who should bear the onus of covering employee healthcare?

What are your thoughts?

Written by Human Resources

November 21, 2008 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Healthcare