The Straits Times
Published on Nov 27, 2012

Educate employees on work-life options


OUR over-reliance on maids stems from a lack of work-life balance among working adults ("Do we need 100,000 more maids?"; last Thursday).

We plug away at our jobs working long hours, leaving us with little choice but to outsource household chores and even child-rearing duties to maids.

I am one of the women doing the "unthinkable" referred to in the commentary - I stay home as the main caregiver of my two young children; we do not have a maid. However, instead of exiting the workforce entirely, I carved out a new home-based career for myself. I also tap the childcare subsidy for working mothers so that my children can attend nursery and socialise with their peers.

This arrangement is viable because of my husband's positive work environment, where colleagues work as a team and he is assessed on pre-arranged outcomes rather than the number of hours he clocks at his desk.

Do we need 100,000 more maids? In short, no.

What we need is a radical shift in Singapore's work-life culture to place greater emphasis on the quality of work rather than the sheer number of hours worked.

More can be done to make working adults aware of flexible work options, as well as subsidies and grants that can be tapped to make their workplaces more work-life friendly.

Successful work-life practices are usually employee-driven. Thus, working adults need to know what flexibility options exist and how to negotiate a win-win outcome with their employers.

When I had my first child, I was fortunate that my employer - Focus on the Family Singapore - discussed the flexibility options that were open to me.

I would also appreciate a stronger push by the Government to advocate alternative working arrangements such as home-based work and part-time employment.

It is inefficient to spend an hour or two on a daily commute. Working from home allows me to log on promptly in the mornings and start work immediately - minus the stress from jostling with the crowds.

If done right, a work-life-friendly workplace does not result in diminished productivity - instead, organisations will see improved employee loyalty and efficiency.

Working adults, too, will not have to cut corners in their personal lives, and have more time to maintain relationships and pursue personal interests.

Judith Mahlathi Alagirisamy (Ms)