Bosses, staff agree on need for work-life harmony: Poll

More managers willing to offer flexibility to employees so long as work targets, deadlines are met

A total of 83 per cent of bosses polled said staff should have the flexibility to manage their time as long as they meet work targets and deadlines, up from 80 per cent in 2014. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Employers and employees have become more aligned in their views on the need for work-life harmony.

A growing share of managers and human resource professionals believe that staff should be given flexibility to manage their own time and schedule as long as they can meet work targets.

At the same time, more employees feel they have been given that flexibility.

These findings are among the results of a survey out today, which examines how attitudes towards work-life harmony and flexible work arrangements have changed in recent years.

It found that 89 per cent of bosses polled last year backed work-life arrangements to help staff cope with the demands of work and personal or family life. This was up from 86 per cent in 2014.

And 75 per cent of employees, up from 69 per cent, agreed that their supervisors were open to flexi-work when required.

A total of 83 per cent of bosses polled said staff should have the flexibility to manage their time as long as they meet work targets and deadlines, up from 80 per cent in 2014.

It also went the other way, with 82 per cent of employees saying their supervisors gave them that flexibility, up from 76 per cent in 2014.

The survey, commissioned by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) in partnership with The Straits Times, was conducted through an online platform and telephone interviews from March to August last year.

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A total of 511 employers and 1,000 employees were surveyed. The profile of respondents was representative of the company landscape here in terms of industry and size. It was also weighted to be representative of the Singaporean and permanent resident working population in terms of age, race and housing type, for instance. A similar survey was conducted in 2014.

Human resource experts such as Kelly Services Singapore managing director and country head Foo See Yang said that offering more flexibility can help improve employee satisfaction and retention.

NTUC Women and Family acting director Koh Yan Ping added: "Some employers have commented that redesigning jobs to provide flexi-work arrangements is costly, but most have realised that it is costlier if you are not able to retain your best talent."

As technology makes it easier to work outside the office, a growing share of employees feel they need to bring work home after office hours.

Last year, 17 per cent thought so, up from 13 per cent in 2014.

In addition, 45 per cent of employees polled felt that they had to be available to meet business needs regardless of hours, an increase from 37 per cent in 2014.

But only 6 per cent of bosses felt that staff should take work home - the same proportion as in 2014.

Organisational psychology associate professor Klaus Templer from the Singapore University of Social Sciences said that some employees are able to multi-task across work and other life domains, and enjoy doing so. However, he added, others would be more easily stressed by attending to work messages during their free time.

ManpowerGroup Singapore country manager Linda Teo said: "It is crucial that employers help their staff clearly define lines between work and life to prevent burnout and ensure employees are not compromising their personal well-being to increase their output."

Workers may also be coming to expect companies to offer schemes that help them achieve work-life harmony.

The survey found that across different age groups, 60 per cent of employees would consider resigning if there was a lack of work-life options, up from 50 per cent in 2014.

As flexi-work arrangements become more common, companies are also shifting away from offering fixed leave benefits.

The share of firms providing the options of part-time work, staggered start and end times, telecommuting and job-sharing rose last year compared with 2014.

Part-time work, for example, was offered by 58 per cent of companies, up from 52 per cent.

But the survey recorded a reduced share of firms providing benefits such as emergency leave, taking time off on short notice for personal matters, family care leave and study or examination leave.

Only 42 per cent offered study or exam leave last year, down from 60 per cent in 2014.

Tafep general manager Roslyn Ten said the shift shows "a growing commitment and understanding that some personal responsibilities, such as longer-term care-giving duties, can be better managed and sustained through the use of flexible work arrangements".

But some experts say more needs to be done in making a flexible work culture the norm. A study by human resource consultancy Mercer this year found that 39 per cent of employees still feel that flexi-work will impact their career prospects.

Mr James Leong, founder of Listen Without Prejudice, a counselling service to help families deal with fear and anxiety, said flexi-work here is "still in its infancy and as such will always be seen as doing a 'favour' to the employee".

"Organisations must see beyond profit-making and business costs and develop a culture of trust and empathy," he said.

"The result is immense employee gratitude, appreciation and loyalty that will be returned manifold and beyond monetary gain."

• This is the first in a three-day series on work-life harmony.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2019, with the headline Bosses, staff agree on need for work-life harmony: Poll. Subscribe