More firms offer ad hoc flexi-work

Those with work-life measures tend to have a lower employee turnover, study shows

More firms are offering flexible work arrangements on an ad hoc basis.

Over three-quarters - 77 per cent - of about 3,800 firms here surveyed from June to September gave their workers unplanned time off, or allowed them to work from outside the office using IT. This is up from 70 per cent last year.

However, such work-life initiatives are offered only on a case-by-case basis.

The number of firms that formally provide such arrangements has remained static, according to a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) report.

Since 2014, the proportion of those that offer at least one formal flexible arrangement has stayed at 47 per cent.

Not surprisingly, it found that firms with work-life measures tend to have a lower employee turnover.

Among firms that formalise flexible work arrangements, allowing employees to work part-time was the most common.

Flexi-time or staggered hours were offered by 23 per cent and formal tele-working by 6.2 per cent.

A study, included in the MOM report released yesterday, found that lower resignation rates were linked to more formal flexible work arrangements and a higher proportion of full-time employees on a five-day work week and with at least 15 days of annual leave.

This is because flexible work arrangements help employees stay engaged with their work, said experts.

Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) general manager Roslyn Ten noted a survey finding that more than 80 per cent of employees said flexible work arrangements help them be more efficient, feel more fulfilled and spend more time with family.

"We know that work-life balance is a key source of stress and they are more likely to stay if they can manage this," said Ms Mira Gajraj Mohan, regional practice director for talent management and organisational alignment at Willis Towers Watson, a professional services company.

One firm that has prioritised work-life balance is 3E Accounting. Managing director Lawrence Chai, 31, set it up in 2011 with his wife.

He said: "We couldn't find work-life balance jobs in accounting, so we started our own firm."

The firm's staff has risen from 12 in 2013 to 25 now. He attributes this partly to its work-life policies.

Mother-of-two Annie Wong, 40, a senior administrative executive with the firm, appreciates the flexibility of being able to leave early to spend time with her children or go into office later if she has chores to attend to. Previously, this flexibility was ad hoc. But Mr Chai formalised the system after attending a Tafep workshop. His staff can now start work any time from 8am to 10am and leave from 5pm to 7pm.

As head of integrated communications at software firm SAP Asia Pacific Japan, Ms Sangita Jeyapathy, 38, appreciates her four-day work week as she has more time with her 41/2-year-old son and two-year-old daughter.

She said: "Just having the opportunity to have one extra day with them is helpful."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2016, with the headline 'More firms offer ad hoc flexi-work'. Print Edition | Subscribe