Work-life balance: Supervisors more ready to help staff

Middle managers are keener now to help their staff cope with the demands of the job and family life through work-life arrangements, according to a new survey.

It noted that 72 per cent of those polled last year also saw it as the employer's responsibility to ensure that employees achieve work-life harmony, up from 66 per cent in a 2014 survey.

Respondents were polled between March and August last year to assess how attitudes towards flexible work arrangements have changed between 2014 and 2018.

The share of managers who said their personal view on work-life harmony was aligned with company policy rose from 68 per cent in 2014 to 81 per cent in the latest poll. And 76 per cent said flexi-work arrangements would not have any effect on an employee's career advancement or performance review. This is up from 71 per cent in 2014.

But implementing flexi-work is not so straightforward, noted the survey, which was commissioned by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices and The Straits Times. It found that 77 per cent of employers were concerned about meeting business requirements like productivity targets while addressing the work-life needs of employees. This is up from 65 per cent in 2014.

The main concern is that granting an employee flexi-work arrangements could mean work would fall on others in the department and that the worker would not be accessible immediately.

Mr Martin Hill, associate director of human resources at recruitment firm Randstad Singapore, said this could be because absence from the office creates a sense of ambiguity, especially when there is a last-minute task that needs to be completed.

ManpowerGroup Singapore country manager Linda Teo said firms should send middle managers for training and outline clearly how work performance will be measured. "This can reduce situations whereby middle managers use flexi-work as a convenient excuse for unsatisfactory performance instead of investigating the root of the issue," she added.

Software technology provider Quest Technology Systems is able to maintain its policy of allowing staff to work from home as long as they keep up normal productivity and performance through proper planning.

Human resources director Vivien Li said all 60 employees speak with their managers at the start of the year to determine performance measures for the following 12 months. There are also regular check-in meetings to ensure they are on track, she added.

The survey also showed that supervisors seem more proactive in telling staff what work-life programmes are available. It noted that about a third of employees polled said their supervisors did this through staff meetings, briefings, e-mails, the firm's intranet or a website to raise awareness. This was higher than the quarter or so who said this in 2014.

New hires at wet wipes manufacturer Kleen-Pak are told about work-life programmes during recruitment and when they start work, and its flexi-work policy is stated online, said human resources manager Sharon Chng.

She added: "We view work-life balance as an important aspect of creating a healthy work environment, which helps to reduce stress and prevent burnout."

Correction note: An earlier version of this article said that Quest Technology is a clean-room engineering company. This is incorrect. We are sorry for the error.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2019, with the headline Work-life balance: Supervisors more ready to help staff. Subscribe