Companies offer perks for staff who watch the clock

GSK Global boss Eric Tan (left), 47, discourages his staff from staying late in the office. Network Courier managing director V.S. Kumar (above, centre), with employees (from left) Simon Sun, Chin Gim Soon, Aslinna Dollah and Rajah Raman. Mr Kumar pl
GSK Global boss Eric Tan (left), 47, discourages his staff from staying late in the office. Network Courier managing director V.S. Kumar (above, centre), with employees (from left) Simon Sun, Chin Gim Soon, Aslinna Dollah and Rajah Raman. Mr Kumar plans to introduce a "no work after 6.30pm" policy by year end.PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES, DESMOND WEE
GSK Global boss Eric Tan (left), 47, discourages his staff from staying late in the office. Network Courier managing director V.S. Kumar (above, centre), with employees (from left) Simon Sun, Chin Gim Soon, Aslinna Dollah and Rajah Raman. Mr Kumar pl
GSK Global boss Eric Tan (left), 47, discourages his staff from staying late in the office. Network Courier managing director V.S. Kumar (above, centre), with employees (from left) Simon Sun, Chin Gim Soon, Aslinna Dollah and Rajah Raman. Mr Kumar plans to introduce a "no work after 6.30pm" policy by year end.PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES, DESMOND WEE

Some bosses doing more to get staff to finish work and leave early

It pays to leave work early at property valuation firm GSK Global. Those who finish their tasks with few errors by 7pm every day are rewarded with pay rises, bonuses and more days off.

And they get fewer days off and little or no bonuses when they are inefficient.

"I get upset if I see employees staying in the office after 7pm," said boss Eric Tan, 47. "It shows that they are either inefficient or are not focused."

Unfortunately, there are not enough firms here that pay close attention to long working hours, said human resource analysts, employers and workers.

Far too often, firms demand results and neglect work processes, leading to extra-long work hours.

"Workers can get overwhelmed if they have many things to do. But not many bosses are giving them guidance in planning and prioritising their tasks," said Singapore Human Resources Institute (SHRI) president Erman Tan.

The issue of excessive long hours causing more young professionals to burn out was highlighted in a Straits Times report earlier this week.

Experts said the problem is that the work-life schemes at most firms, such as flexi-work and work-from-home options, offer flexibility but do not lead to shorter work hours.

Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said technology is more a bane than boon.

"You can be at home but still working all the time with your mobile phone or laptop. Of course, you won't feel rested," he said.

This is where bosses must step in, said analysts. A suggestion is to have rules on e-mail after work hours.

France, for instance, announced last week that it will implement a law to stop some 250,000 workers in the technology and consultancy sectors from replying to e-mails after 6pm.

GSK Global's Mr Tan said such rules are useful only if they are enforced.

"When I see my staff talking about work in our company's WhatsApp chat group or replying to e-mails in the evenings, I will tell them to stop. It can always wait until tomorrow," he said.

There are other employers who are just as vigilant about long working hours.

Managing director V.S. Kumar of delivery services firm Network Courier, for example, walks around his Jalan Besar office every day at 7.30pm to check on staff who stay late. He said he will introduce a "no work after 6.30pm" policy by the end of this year.

But for it to work, it is important for supervisors to help workers iron out inefficient kinks in their workflow.

At hardware chain Home-Fix, general manager Gordon Lee has limited the time spent on meetings, stopped different departments from doing duplicate tasks, and streamlined checks.

"I find that more employees are going home at 7pm now," he said.

Firms like GSK Global even offer perks such as extra days off. Ms Sammy Liu, 28, a director at GSK, said she had three pay rises and enjoyed a whole month of paid leave when she got married last year. She is one of the firm's top performers and goes home at 6.30pm sharp on most days.

"I am appraised by my results and not the time I put in. This makes me want to work more efficiently,"she said.

HR experts said that while it is heartening that some firms are coming up with new strategies to cut down on work hours, most bosses are not as progressive.

Said SHRI's Mr Tan: "Bosses feel a constant pressure to chase targets and don't spend enough time thinking about work processes. They need to take a step back and relook the way their staff work."

ameltan@sph.com.sg