Achieving work-life balance is a recurring issue, which is why the recent launch of a new tripartite standard is welcome. Among the recommendations to employers are flexible work arrangements, employee-support schemes such as family days and health screenings, as well as flexible arrangements for employees who also have care-giving responsibilities. As recently as 2019, Singapore came in the bottom quarter of 40 cities in a study on work-life balance. The Republic ranked No. 32 and was rated the second highest for work intensity. The average employee here clocked 44.6 hours a week compared with an employee in Oslo, one of the top three cities, who worked 38.9 hours a week. With numbers such as these, it is no wonder that employee-engagement also lags behind the global average and staff turnover rates here are among the highest in Asia.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which has upended work routines and forced many to work from home, has raised concerns about the increasingly blurred boundary between work and personal lives. On the bright side, however, the new normal has proven that current technology and connectivity can support remote routines. Employers previously reluctant to introduce such options now accept remote working as a necessity. The tripartite standard's recommendations will not be enforced by law. But employers looking to improve productivity and retain employees may find that paying attention to work-life balance will benefit their business. The Ministry of Manpower's 2019 Conditions of Employment Report found that flexible work arrangements had the greatest impact on staff retention. With tough competition for skilled workers, employers who prioritise staff welfare have an edge. Hopefully more will recognise that improving work-life balance can be a win-win for everyone.