askST: All work and no play? New programmes help S’poreans achieve harmony

Human resource guide, after-hours communication policy template and online tool to assess workplace stress among initiatives to support workers

Human resource guide, after-hours communication policy template and online tool to assess workplace stress among initiatives to support workers. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

It's no secret that Singaporeans are a hard-working bunch. According to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Manpower, full-time employed workers clocked in an average of 45.4 usual hours per week last year. In comparison, South Koreans worked an average of 44.4 hours per week, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The pandemic has done little to reduce this imbalance. A UOB study on the impact of Covid-19 on Asean markets published last year found that 89 per cent of employees here feel they need to work longer hours to keep their jobs.

In the second of this three-part Singapore Together series exploring opportunities to emerge stronger as a nation, we find out how the Singapore Together Alliance for Action on Work-Life Harmony (AfA on WLH) aims to help people achieve work-life harmony.

Q: How would the AfA on WLH define work-life harmony?

A: The AfA on WLH defines work-life harmony as a state in which individuals can effectively manage both work and personal lives to meet their goals.

Q: I work in human resources (HR) and would like to implement some work-life harmony practices at my workplace. Does the AfA on WLH have any initiatives or resources I can refer to?

A: The AfA on WLH is developing a range of initiatives and resources to promote awareness and the importance of work-life harmony. They will be launched in August and shared on the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices' (Tafep) website.

These will include a HR guide on how businesses can implement work-life practices and an after-hours communication policy template to set boundaries on work-related communication outside of work hours.

Tripartite partners and AfA members will encourage employers and employees to adopt these initiatives and resources.

The long-term goal is for the AfA on WLH to build their network of employers and employees, share best practices among industry experts and professionals and continue to spearhead efforts to achieve work-life harmony outcomes for Singapore.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM), National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation also launched the Tripartite Standard on Work-Life Harmony in April. It sets out recommended employment practices that recognise the priorities of employees at different life stages and support them in achieving work-life harmony.

Employers can find out how to adopt the Tripartite Standard on Work-Life Harmony and other useful work-life resources on Tafep's website and MOM's website.

Q: My workplace does not have a work-life friendly culture. How can I get my employer to consider introducing work-life harmony practices?

A: You can refer your employer to Tafep's website. There are resources on how to implement work-life practices, even for specific sectors that may face unique challenges in doing so.

You can also approach your employer to suggest that they adopt the Tripartite Standard on Work-Life Harmony or Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements. The latter was launched in 2017 to provide employers and employees with more flexi-work options such as choosing when to start and finish work. Tafep offers regular coaching clinics to support employers in adopting these Tripartite Standards.

Q: Will the Government make it mandatory for companies to implement work-life harmony policies?

A: Work-life harmony may differ across businesses and individuals who may have varying priorities at different life stages. As such, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Tripartite partners will continue to support and encourage employers to adopt work-life practices at their workplaces. These include working with the AfA on WLH to promote awareness and the importance of work-life harmony, as well as providing resources that guide them in rolling out such practices.

To further encourage and support employers, those who adopt the Tripartite Standard on Work-Life Harmony this year will get free access to the Human Capital Diagnostic Tool. The tool provides organisations with insights on how to assess the maturity of their HR processes and identify opportunities to better support their business and workforce needs. Due to its limited availability, the tool is accessible on a first-come, first-served basis.

Q: How can I identify if my employees are stressed? Are there common stressors or signs to look out for?

A: You can consider using the iWorkHealth online tool launched by MOM in March to identify sources of stress at the workplace. The free assessment tool has a self-administered psychosocial health questionnaire for employees that enables employers to gain insight into the well-being of their workforce.

The questions cover factors such as job demands, job recognition, workplace culture and relationships with supervisors and co-workers. After employees submit their responses, the tool generates a report for them and an aggregated, anonymised report that identifies key workplace stressors for the organisation. Recommendations to manage workplace stress are included in the reports and the iWorkHealth microsite.

Employers are encouraged to support this data with feedback through other channels such as conversations with employees and workplace culture surveys.

MOM also worked with tripartite partners to release the Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-being at Workplaces in November last year. The Advisory consolidates recommendations and resources which employers can adopt to support their employees' mental well-being at the workplace.

Building Singapore Together

The Singapore Together AfAs were formed to bring together partnerships between people, public and private sectors to tackle complex socio-economic issues the nation faces.

  • Interested in co-creating a more balanced work-life (WL) arrangement for fellow Singaporeans? Click here to sign up as a WL Ambassador. For more info on Singapore Together, visit This was produced in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

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