What is a positive workplace?

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Age is but a number

Redesigning jobs for age-friendly workplaces

Some employers believe that they shouldn’t invest time and effort in retaining their older employees when they can get “younger, better, faster” workers. 

Others, however, believe in tapping on a mature worker’s wealth of knowledge, wisdom and experience as a smart response to tight labour market. And they make efforts to ease the job strain and to protect the incomes of their older workers. 

One such progressive employer is Sheraton Towers.

Through the WorkPro grant, Sheraton Towers received funding from the government to invest in new technologies to cater to the physical capabilities of their older workers and to increase productivity at their restaurants. 

These heavy metal chaffing dishes are a common sight at buffet tables  

Chaffing dishes are a familiar sight at buffet tables. These 30kg metal casseroles keep food warm over a gentle flame from a burning fuel. They might look simple to assemble, but are actually cumbersome to carry, dismantle, clean and refuel, especially if there is a whole row of them. It’s definitely tedious, especially for older workers such as 67-year-old Mr Au Tiang Kok, who has been with the hotel for 17 years and assists in the set up and clearing of the buffet trays at the hotel’s restaurants and banqueting events.

He is grateful that the hotel has invested in a new equipment to reduce the physical strain of his work. Called LiveCookinTable, this new buffet setup not only replaces the heavy chaffing dishes with smaller, lighter and well-polished ones, but also does away with the chaffing fuel with its multi-purpose function as a cooker, warmer and even cooler.


The LiveCookinTable (as shown above) has significantly eased work processes for older workers with easily controllable temperature settings (Photo: Sheraton Towers Singapore)

“It’s very simple to use. The temperature has already been controlled by the chef, so all we need to do is turn the switch on and off. We don’t have to tend to the fuel. Cleaning is much easier too! Last time, we need to polish the old chaffing dishes but now, we only need to clean it with a cloth after service. It’s also much lighter to lift up the dishes,” Mr Au beamed.

New chaffing dishes are lighter and less prone to discolouration, which means that cleaning is now easier for Mr Au!

Not just for heating up warm food, the new equipment also has cold temperature settings to keep the fruits and salad at the buffet stations fresh – an area which 64-year-old Mdm Chua Bee Keow oversees.

Cutting and preparing fresh fruits, such as watermelon, pineapple and rock melon, is part of Mdm Chua’s daily routine.

Having been with the company for close to 27 years, Mdm Chua had also witnessed the more laborious processes that were previously in place. “In the past, whenever there were fewer customers around, we would run out and check the station to make sure the ice didn’t melt, the fruits were not turning yellow, and that the salad leaves were not wilting,” she shared candidly.

But now with the new cooking appliance, her fruits and salad can remain fresh and chilled for at least 2 to 3 hours, and the ice no longer needs to be replenished as often.

Making jobs easier, safer and smarter for older workers is part of a caring and inclusive family culture that is very much present at Sheraton 

When the LiveCookinTable was first installed, many employees were concerned about how to use it safely. What if wet dishes are placed on it? Would it cause a short circuit? Will I get hurt? 

Sensing their concerns, F&B managers at Sheraton Towers sent their staff on a safety training course to familiarise them with the equipment and safety procedures.

Mr Andy Chan, Director of F&B, spoke about the importance of training his staff to be comfortable and confident in using the new technologies: “If our staff keep to the old ways of doing things, the LiveCookinTable will become a white elephant. We need to assure them that the technologies are here not to make their jobs redundant, but to help them become more productive through automation.”

Ultimately the hotel hopes that technology and job redesign would help maintain an exceptional customer experience.

For sprightly 50-year-old dining room captain Mr Mustaffa bin Abdul Jalil, the Livecookintable has helped reduce the number of customer complaints about the temperature of the food. This allows him to focus more on interacting with the guests and giving them a more personalised experience. And he credits his supervisors at Sheraton Towers for investing in age-friendly practices.

Mr Mustaffa with his friend and mentor, Mr Andy Chan, the F&B Director

He chimed in, “I’ve stayed with the company for 30 years now because my relationships with my managers are very good. We are like family, and they always openly give me feedback so that I can improve. They are also quite flexible, and allow me to take time off if I need it.”

Mr Au, Mdm Chua and Mr Mustaffa are but three of the many mature workers who have received support from their employer through a redesign of their jobs to make tasks safer and easier to perform. In turn, Sheraton Towers has benefited from manpower savings of about 30% as extra manning of the chaffing fuels was no longer required. The new equipment alsoreduced the time needed in clearing and setting up of the buffet counters. Not only has job redesign improved the hotel’s productivity, but it has boosted the staff’s morale as they can now value-add in other areas and enhance the guest experience. 

WorkPro is a scheme that provides employers with funding support to augment local manpower, foster progressive and age-friendly workplaces and jobs, and to enhance work-life harmony.

To sign up for the WorkPro grant, visit MOM’s website for more details.

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