Family-friendly practices are clearly not just on the wish lists of married mums who need to take care of their children. Executives of all profiles desire them for there are always exigencies of the family or for themselves that may call for flexibility and understanding on the part of employers. Our alumni share their thoughts on the sort of family-friendly practices they currently enjoy and/or would like to see being implemented at their workplaces.
CARING FOR PARENTS
Michelle Tan (MBA 2010):
While my company does not currently practice Family Leave, I am grateful that my employer is understanding of my urgent family priorities from time to time. I reciprocate the flexibility given by completing my work offline so projects are not affected by my absence.
I value manpower as an asset in every organization. I also understand that everyone has unique family needs that may require time off work occasionally to take care of such priorities. As such, I strongly believe that to retain good staff, a company with a broader view of their needs and implements family-friendly or flexi-work practices will be better appreciated. For myself, with an aged mother to take care of, I would very much appreciate it if my company offered Family Leave – similar concept to Childcare Leave – or flexible working hours like starting or ending work earlier on certain weekdays. This will make fetching my mother back from elderly care activities much easier.
Eunice Loke (BBA 1999):
In my current workplace, staff are entitled to Childcare Leave – unconditional – Child Sick Leave and Elderly Care Leave. Childcare leave had allowed me to accompany my youngest girl on her first few days at the Childcare Centre. Seeing that she blended in well with her classmates and adapted to the new environment puts my mind at ease.
Flexi-work practices – such as part-time work, or work-from-home arrangements on certain days – for the first couple of years into motherhood would definitely allow the mother to manage both her newborn and her work back in the office. The mother could work whenever her kids are asleep or in school. Extended to the father, it allows strong bonds between parents and children.
Tan Boon Chin (APEX-E MBA 2003)
Families mean everything to our staff; what happens in the family certainly impacts staff performance and productivity. Hence, at NEC, we hold dearly to family-friendly practices. It makes a lot of business sense for us. Those with young children can work flexi-hours or from home, allowing them more time at home with their kids. For those with grown-up children, flexi-hours allow them to spend quality time with their children – these staff often need to fit into their children’s busy schedule. I happen to belong to this latter group.
Heading a business unit, I am in a privileged position to determine our work-life balance practices and tenor. Our staff have clear KPIs, and are judged based on their performance – not on the hours they clock in at the office. Furthermore, most of us work in teams; any slip in performance is quickly noticed and corrected. With the proliferation of mobile devices, it no longer makes sense to talk of working from a specific fixed location; work can now be done from anywhere, anytime. This means staff can attend to work matters and family concerns at their own discretion. In effect, we can look at such an arrangement as “work-life integration” – another buzzword, and something which we are already practicing.
THE FAMILY AS A WHOLE
Adrian Lim Boon Cheong (BBA 1994)
I have worked from my home office for five years now. This is one of the best family-friendly practices I know of. It allows non-office bound staff to work and enjoy time with the family. However, the personnel involved must be mature and realize that their contributions to the organization remain imperative; and the privilege must never be abused. They must be willing to go the extra mile when required.
In today’s connected world, there are fiber optics connections, Wi-Fi, BlackBerry, iPhones, smartphones, tablets, laptops, Skype, video conferencing – all these allow us to be in touch 24/7. This means that any downtime can be spent with our children or parents instead of looking busy in front of the boss. Time spent commuting to and from work is also saved for productive work or for the family.
Of course, I have had to attend essential and sales meetings with customers. However, with flexi hours and the home office, my family dies bit feel the pinch even when I have to work overtime or travel overseas.
But I must, once again, stress that this privilege is very much dependent on the individual employee. The trust placed on him or her must not be abused. If they are responsible enough, it will make for a much closer family relationship and more productive work time!
FOR WELL-ROUNDED LIFESTYLES
James Loh Aik Hong (BBA 1995)
Personally, I really appreciate the work place and hour flexibility which allows me to start work later at around 10am, and to leave earlier at 5pm to continue working from home from 9pm. This suits my job schedule as it allows me to get in touch with all three major regions which I cover – Asia, Europe and US which have very disparate time zones. Personally, this allows me to beat the rush hour traffic, be at home early to spend time with my kids, do some exercise and have a proper sit-down dinner with the family.
It is my belief that family-friendly / flexi-work practices are in the process of becoming a basic standard for companies in Singapore in the war for talent. What used to be a great differentiator some 5 to 10 years ago starting with MNC companies has now gained rapid adoption in many companies today. Work place and work hour flexibility really enhances my productivity and work life balance.
CATERING TO SHIFTING PRIORITIES
Richard Ang (BBA 1989)
I am not exaggerating when I saw that I appreciate my company, a local SME in the ICT industry, for being an early-adopter of flexi-work arrangements such as flexi-time, mobile working and telecommuting.
In the past, this arrangement gave me the flexibility to concurrently re-arrange my work schedule – be it meetings with clients or engaging operational staff – and align my time with two growing teenagers’ schedule. Now that they are older, I do not really need the flexi-work arrangement. but I continue to enjoy it nonetheless. And having the flexibility to manage my own work hours and the environment that I want to be working in are very strong incentives for effective and efficient work. The arrangement has allowed me to stay engaged, focused and productive as I have the time to think and not just do. In our “rush-to-get-results” world, thinking time is so lacking that we often end up spending more time undoing what we have not done right in the first instance.
With cloud computing gaining momentum, coupled with myriad of collaboration platforms, there are more opportunities now than before for companies to practice flexi-work arrangements. Today, mobile working continues to provide employees with the means to stay connected with their organizations without being physically present. Telecommuting is no longer a fashionable idea but a viable work alternative for employees who need to attend to family matters and yet are still available to work, though not within the confines of an office.
Regardless of employee age group, companies should encourage more of their employees to tap into modern technology to improve both personal as well as organizational productivity. Flexi-work practices are here to stay. In fact, more and more employees are bringing their own telecommuting devices to work. Many companies are now formulating BYOD (bring your own device) polices to manage and govern these devices. With computing power growing at an exponential pace, the call for enterprises to adopt more family-friendly practices will only continue to grow.
DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE OF TIME-OFF
Ajay Pathania (MBA 2005)
Running my own business, I have more flexibility with my time than when I was working with other organizations. I take short time-offs to attend to my kids or home as, most of the time, these things do not allow me to work away from home all day.
In my previous organizations, there were a few family-friendly policies. For instance, Childcare Leave, Spouse Sick Leave – about two days per year – and the occasional approval to work from home. At one organization, employees could accumulate hours by working one extra hour each day in exchange for alternate Fridays off. It was a great practice, but most bosses were opposed to that as employees worked extra hours each day anyway, and the bosses felt that the arrangement would hamper work.
I also find that policies at work are not synchronous to employees’ varied life stages. A more robust policy would be to allow different duration of time-off rather than the current half-day or full-day. A half-day deducted from one’s annual leave seems a lot to bargain for when weighed against just a little extra time with the kid where an hour or two is all that is needed. This would also allow for one day’s worth of leave to be stretched across three to four different occasions, which would be great for the employee – and for the organization which would then not experience a significant downtime at each instance.