What really is a pro-family workplace?

A mother and her son walking to school together.
A mother and her son walking to school together.PHOTO: ST FILE

This year, our organisation Focus on the Family Singapore will see four more members of our staff welcome a new addition to their families.

The four of them would make up about 10 per cent of our workforce, and the impact on the rest of the organisation can be enormous.

It would mean colleagues doing double duty to cover the employee on maternity or paternity leave.

Hiring temporary staff would be challenging with the less attractive salaries a non-profit organisation like ours offers, and training them would add to the workload.

So what does it mean to be a pro-family workplace (Pro-family workplace helps parents, Sept 11)?

Infrastructure-wise, we have a lactation room with a hand-me-down mini fridge in it. The room is also used for meetings and counselling to fully utilise our limited space.

Nine in 10 of our employees work off laptops and two-thirds have flexible work arrangements due to family care needs and because of the tight work space situation.

Parents are allowed to bring their children to work to manage childcare.

Undoubtedly, with all these, our organisation has enjoyed low employee absenteeism rates and high employee engagement scores.

So, is having a pro-family workplace about providing occasional workplace talks on mental and physical well-being, or organising activities for staff and their families?

Having grappled with this for almost 20 years, I realise we tend to go for the quick fixes. What is harder to address is workplace culture.

How can an organisation be pro-family while insisting that a mother stays in the workforce?

How does a company rehire a back-to-work mum and reinstate all her employee benefits as if she never left?

What do you do when much of the organisation's work takes place on weekends, week nights or school holidays, when working parents need that time with their children?

These are real questions with no easy solutions. What never fails is returning to the human factor of work - valuing people and relationships.

Perhaps, other than policies, programmes and incentives, regular workplace conversations about work-life satisfaction need to take place, so that employer and employee come to a win-win conclusion that gets the work done because the home is well taken care of.

Joanna Koh-Hoe

Chief Executive Officer

Focus on the Family Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2019, with the headline 'What really is a pro-family workplace?'. Print Edition | Subscribe