Nearly as many men as women are keen on flexi-work: Survey

Doxa Holdings' co-founders (from left) Henry Kwan, Leon Yeo and Edmund Ng, who are all fathers, work from home.
Doxa Holdings' co-founders (from left) Henry Kwan, Leon Yeo and Edmund Ng, who are all fathers, work from home.PHOTO: LEON YEO

Men have become as interested as women on calling for more flexible work options, a new survey shows.

Traditionally, women favoured flexi-work due to their role as the primary caregiver but there has been a shift, the poll finds. It shows 71 per cent of men and 76 per cent of women surveyed here want to work more flexible hours.

The poll out last week also notes that 55 per cent of men already had flexibility at work while 43 per cent of women are in the same position.

The desire among men for more flexi-work options is driven by millennials, said Mr Abhijeet Mukherjee, chief executive of the Asia-Pacific and Gulf regions at recruitment site Monster.com, which did the survey. "As Singaporean families move towards a more balanced share of the load between partners, men are starting to demand greater flexi-work options so they can better support their families."

This finding is reflected in the other countries polled - Malaysia and the Philippines. The survey of 2,238 respondents, including 540 here, aims to understand the employment challenges women and men face, especially concerning work-life balance.

Almost 75 per cent of the men polled here said they are seeking a job change as work-life balance is a top priority. About 42 per cent of these respondents are millennials - aged between 26 and 31.

Mr Mukherjee said: "Young husbands and fathers are helping to drive the movement for greater equality in child-rearing... and employers need to catch up, too."

The poll also shows that Singaporean women face other challenges at work, with 55 per cent of local mums believing they had missed out on career opportunities.

Centre for Fathering and Dads for Life's chief executive Bryan Tan said the findings reflect a cultural shift where fathers, encouraged by years of pro-family messages from organisations like his, firms and the Government, "are not afraid to be more nurturing".

But counsellors who have worked with families warned that societal norms regarding gender roles are entrenched, adding that flexi-work may not work for some fathers.

Mr James Leong, the founder of Listen Without Prejudice, which provides counselling services, said many men still find their identity in providing for the family. He cited the Monster.com survey's other findings, where 41 per cent of men feel constant pressure to provide for their families. "There's always a trade-off. For instance, would men who seek flexi-work be okay with earning less than their wife, even if it means more time with the family?"

Mr Leon Yeo, a co-founder of a fintech start-up, said he supports flexi-work but warns that offering such arrangements for all employees, male and female, might be "too risky". He cited his experiences in firms where some subordinates became more productive when on flexi hours but some treated their flexi-job as "a part-time" one.

Still, Mr Yeo, 49, walks the talk when it comes to embracing the benefits of flexi-work, which he and his co-founders, who are also fathers, have introduced in their company Doxa Holdings. He and co-founders Edmund Ng, 43, and Henry Kwan, 47, work from home.

"We are determined to create a flexible working environment to ensure a good work-life balance for everyone regardless of gender," said Mr Yeo. He and his wife, a homemaker, have a son aged 20 and two daughters aged 18 and 12.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2019, with the headline 'Nearly as many men as women are keen on flexi-work: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe