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A Test of Integrity

By Lawrence Chan

It was sometime in January this year when I first heard about the coronavirus spreading in China. While global experts were trying to make sense of the situation, rumours and speculation spread like wildfire (one might even say… like a virus) online.

I’ve always been mindful of my health (some people call me kiasi, I call it being prudent), so I kept a close eye on the developments both online and on the ground in China. The more I read, the more I was sure that this was something serious (understatement of the year). My worries became full-blown when news of the first 2 confirmed cases in Singapore broke. The virus had finally reached our shores.

The situation has evolved very quickly over the past 5 months – we saw Singapore close its borders, implement the infamous circuit breaker, extend it, and more recently implement the phased rollout of our road to the new norm as COVID-19 numbers start to stabilise. I’m always on high alert, thinking of all possible measures to overcome each challenge thrown our way. After the extension of the circuit breaker was announced, I was told by my colleagues that I seemed distracted at the HOD meeting the next morning. Sorry, guys, but I was still reeling from the news and thinking about its implications on our business.

Our frontline staff – still hard at work during the circuit breaker.

As the Managing Director of the company, I’ve always been worried about our performance and serving our customers well. With this pandemic, I had to constantly reevaluate my priorities. With each new development, my focus kept shifting between the company’s bottomline and the well-being of those around me.

From the beginning, my parents were always at the top of my mind. They are getting on in years and vulnerable to infection. It is difficult to defend against an invisible threat such as this. As I thought about how to keep them safe, I realised that many of my colleagues had the same concerns with their loved ones. Even through my kiasi-ism, I knew that it was no longer just about keeping myself healthy. As a son and a leader, I have to keep my family (both at home and at work) safe.

There’s the family you’re born into, and there’s a family you choose.

Reconciling these two priorities is a major challenge. I need to be able to balance both, but to what extent would I be able to do so?

It is when the going gets tough that a company’s policies and culture are put to the test. Some may say that the employer-employee relationship is based on fair trade. But I know that employees put in a lot of effort beyond what is called for on their off days, mainly because they want to prove themselves and are worried about the business. Its only right that we step up as a company for our employees who have worked hard for us in good times and bad.

My stance is that, for as long as our business can sustain it, we will try our best to protect our employees. Their leave and salaries should not be affected as a result of the pandemic. As far as we can, even if it costs us, we still need to look out for our staff and customers.

However, I’m painfully aware that if business gets severely impacted by the pandemic, we may all have to bear some cost. Nonetheless, as part of the management team, we should still do our best to minimise the impact on our staff.

This is the culture that I want MyRepublic to have – one of sincerity, reciprocity and integrity.

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