IN FOCUS INTERVIEW WITH THE EDITOR :
SHEELA PARAKKAL , CHIEF HUMAN RESOURCES OFFICER , PRUDENTIAL SINGAPORE
At that stage , the retirement age that we practiced internally was in-line with the Government guidelines of 62 , with an option for extension of employment for another five years etc . We have one of the longest life expectancies worldwide , and the research also highlighted that while people were living longer , they were not necessarily living a quality life . There was significant concern among Singapore residents that if they were to live to 84 years , for example , were they going to be physically fit ? Would they have friends to hang around with at that stage ? And would they have the financial means to live that long ?
We asked ourselves what we could do as a responsible corporate to help , and it became very apparent to us that many of our senior colleagues who are in their 50s and 60s were wonderful role models with a richness of experience and knowledge . If they were able and willing to continue and performing well , and we could help them to achieve that social and financial security , why not ? So that ' s why we decided that we would remove the retirement age for our employees and the policies were changed . The following year ( 2019 ) we also removed the Central Provident Fund ( CPF ) cap on contributions for our employees above 55 years old - if these mature workers were doing the same jobs as their younger colleagues , they deserve to be similarly recognised for their efforts too .
Our average employee age is within their early 30s , but that did not stop us from asking pertinent questions around what we could do to challenge thinking on future work arrangements and constructs . We wanted to break the traditional thinking around “ study , work , retire ” and that linear way of looking at life .
For our employees who are above 62 , it ’ s about having the choice to stay on and work . As long as you want to be an active contributor , there will always be a place for you . Our younger employees also have the chance to work and interact with these mature employees , resulting in diversity in thinking , experiences , and learning opportunities and mentorships . The benefits – the intangibles – are tremendous .
There are those who have chosen to retire , but with full knowledge that it ' s their choice .
A big part of this entire move will only be possible if there ' s an ongoing emphasis on getting employees to feel like they are in the driver ' s seat .
Of course , the pandemic has dramatically pushed forward the flexible working agenda . How has Prudential been supporting employees and have there been any permanent changes that have been made to policies and processes as a result of that ?
There are many things that we had started doing ahead of the pandemic , which I would say helped us respond a lot better than we would have been able to otherwise . Working from home is not a new concept for anyone who works in Prudential . Since 2017 , a significant part of our focus was not about being present in the office , instead it was about achieving outcomes for yourself and for the organisation . We recognise people have lives outside work , and sometimes they may need to settle things on a personal front before dedicating themselves 100 per cent to work .
When the circuit breaker was announced in Singapore , this was not just about making sure that people could work from home , but ensuring that they were enabled to work effectively . All of the technical logistics happened seamlessly , because again , we ' d been talking about working from home for a while . We helped staff deal with the immediate needs of a home office , loaning out monitors and encouraging people to come and pick up an office chair if they needed it as it was just going to sit idle in the office .
When your office is your home , we experience challenges in terms of drawing the boundaries from a work / life balance perspective . Our managers have been very resourceful in terms of how they engage and stay connected with their people . One of the things that really worked through this period was a pilot programme we started for a 4-day work week , starting with my team . As of today , we have close to 10 per cent of our organisation on this experiment . Psychologically when you lower the number of working days it allows people to have a longer period to switch off and restart the next week . While wellbeing was the original thinking , we have also discovered it has increased productivity simply because of how people best use their working hours . We work with a distribution force , which is close to 5,000 people . So there ' s many nuances to work out because ultimately at the end of the day we want to support wellbeing and yet still want to be customer service centric .