DBS is galvanising its 12,000 strong workforce in Singapore amid Covid-19 with the launch of its TOGETHER movement – the bank’s holistic approach to employee care and engagement during these challenging times. The movement also aims to encourage employees to imagine and prepare for future opportunities and growth post Covid-19.

Aldea Zhang joins her in-bank mentor for a coaching session via the bank’s videoconferencing platform.

Lee Yan Hong, Head of Group Human Resources at DBS, shared that while the bank’s employees are doing their best to adapt to new work norms as a result of Covid-19, some may experience anxiety when juggling competing demands for attention as the boundaries between home and the workplace start to blur. “Managing these changes to our daily routines may not come naturally to everyone. The lack of social interaction at the workplace coupled with the wider uncertainty over how the pandemic situation might change the economy and our social norms add to the mental and emotional stress that employees might experience.”

We are committed to looking after our employees’ well-being, even as we continue to serve our customers. Our employees are our most valuable asset, and this is why we have intensified our efforts to communicate and engage with them during this challenging time. Our aim is to keep everyone connected and engaged, to encourage mutual care, and to inspire our employees to reimagine and create opportunities for growth after Covid-19, rather than be constrained by today’s circumstances.

DBS’ TOGETHER movement seeks to boost employee morale through a holistic series of programmes aimed at addressing their physical, emotional, mental and psychological well-being. The programmes’ four main themes involve helping employees:

(1) Adopt new behaviours and ways of working.

With teams operating virtually out of different sites, this track aims to establish new norms to ensure a respectful and productive digital work environment.
  • DBS has rolled out a communications programme containing advice on smoothening the transition to new work arrangements, such as ways to organise work corners at home and suggestions on establishing new work routines. Managers have also received guidance on how to better engage their teams remotely, including actionable tips on building team morale as well as insights on cultivating trust and empathy from behind the screen.

(2) Build social connections despite new work arrangements.

The lack of physical meetups or face-to-face conversations could hinder team bonding, but this track aims to introduce new ways for employees to stay connected and build professional trust.
  • DBS has encouraged employees to leverage the bank’s videoconferencing platforms to stay connected socially, of which employees have responded positively, such as organising virtual team meals and group fitness exercises. “Casual Hangouts” sessions have also been organised to bring employees with common interests (such as having a love for animals, good food and doing good) together. Managers are encouraged the lead the change by introducing new team habits and celebrating positive milestones.

(3) Care for their personal well-being, and that of colleagues.

Working remotely has its own set of challenges that can take a toll on physical and mental health. This track reminds employees to take charge of their personal health during this period, and to nurture a culture of mutual care and concern within the organisation.
  • DBS has been distributing care packages comprising surgical masks, hand sanitisers, a thermometer and Vitamin C supplements to all employees. Webinars on health and well-being in the context of a Covid-19 world have also been organised regularly.
  • Confidential counselling, which has always been available to employees, continue to be available during this period.
  • Programmes focused on mental well-being will also be introduced in the coming weeks (more details in subsequent sections).

(4) Use current circumstances as a positive force to develop innovative solutions for the bank, customers and community.

This track aims to encourage employees to see themselves as agents of positive change even during Covid-19. These include internal innovation challenges as well as avenues for employees to contribute to the wider community.
  • DBS has roped in its employees to distribute complimentary care packages, healthy snacks, lunch bentos, coffee and gelato to healthcare professionals who have been working tirelessly in the wake of the Covid-19 situation.
  • Through its SGD 10.5 million ‘DBS Stronger Together Fund’, the bank is empowering its employees to donate towards meals for the elderly, lower-income households, and migrant workers in Singapore. DBS is further amplifying employee contributions by matching every employee meal pledge made.

Overcoming adversity TOGETHER – a unifying movement recognising the collective bank-wide effort to face the challenges of Covid-19

Lee added that the bank has been rolling out various initiatives to care for employees ever since the Covid-19 situation began unfolding in early February 2020. At the same time, employees have been coming up with creative ways of their own to stay connected and keep morale high. “It is uplifting to see our employees being so positive in the face of adversity, and we want to encourage more of such socially proactive behaviour. Our TOGETHER movement will provide a unifying focal point to channel our collective effort across the bank into programmes that have the most impact on our employees.”

Ground-up initiatives have been springing up, with employees tapping on the bank’s videoconferencing platforms to come up with new team rituals to keep morale high. For instance, one department holds weekly Fast Food Fridays with everyone sharing their lunch and catching up virtually, while others hold virtual book clubs to connect outside of work conversations. Another team has also developed a mobile game application to remind each other of appropriate social behaviours during Covid-19.

Aldea Zhang, a Management Associate at DBS, said, “I was initially quite excited to know that we could work from home as it’s a new experience for me. But after a week, I found myself missing my colleagues as well as the opportunity to learn from the experiences of the different people I get to meet when I go to work. We don’t know how long the pandemic will last, and how long we will need to keep to these new work arrangements, so it’s really reassuring to know that the bank has got our backs with structured ways to help us adapt.”

Supporting employees’ mental well-being during Covid-19

Employees can look forward to more engagement activities as part of the TOGETHER movement in the coming weeks, including programmes around innovation, career development, wellness and mental health.

On mental well-being, Lee emphasised that mental health is just as important as physical health, especially during this period. “The isolation economy is a reality that all of us must contend with for the foreseeable future, until we have certainty on when the pandemic could pass. Until then, DBS is committed to devoting sufficient resources and energy into ensuring that the mental health needs of our employees are adequately addressed.

From next month onwards, employees will be given free access to a mindfulness application tailored to workplace mental wellness as part of the bank’s holistic support for employee well-being. DBS will also launch a well-being challenge between mid-May to mid-June to encourage all employees to take charge of their own physical and mental health.

Michelle Tan, Vice President, Group Strategic Marketing and Communications at DBS, shared that working from home over the past month made her realise that she had to adjust not just her schedule but also her mindset to fit the needs of everyone in her household, which includes two toddlers aged four and one. “I thought working from home would mean I could have extra time with my kids and more time to exercise as I would be cutting down on my commuting time. But over the last month, I realised that it does take some effort to make sure my schedule and the kids’ schedules are planned properly so that I don’t get overwhelmed with what’s happening on my laptop and outside in the living room where the kids are. I’m thankful that the bank understands my concerns and is introducing programmes specifically looking at mental well-being. I think many employees will find this useful as burnout is a very real issue if you need to constantly juggle work and home at the same time.

Making digital learning the new norm in skills advancement

DBS will also nudge employees to make the most of today’s new work arrangements by ingraining digital learning behaviours during this period. The bank is running its inaugural ‘LearnShareTeach TOGETHER’ Virtual Festival all of this week to encourage its employees in Singapore to pick up new skills, and to connect with colleagues through the sharing of knowledge and experiences. Employees can also look forward to building their own autonomous driving models in a 3D simulation environment, followed by a competition on a virtual racetrack to learn about machine learning in a fun, gamified way.

The bank will also be looking to sustain the habit of digital learning beyond the festival with fortnightly learning ‘playlists’. These are curated selections of bite-sized learning modules, videos, and virtual classes on topics such as blockchain, digital disruption and the science of decision-making. These playlists will be put together from DBS’ collection of over 10,000 articles on the bank’s digital Learning Hub.

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