Nearly as many men as women want flexi-work: Survey

Doxa Holdings co-founders (from left) Henry Kwan, Leon Yeo and Edmund Ng all work from home, and have introduced flexible work options in their company. PHOTO: LEON YEO

SINGAPORE - Men have become as keen as women on calling for more flexible work options, according to a new survey.

Women have traditionally tended to favour flexi-work due to their roles as primary caregivers but there has been a shift, as the poll outlined.

It found that 71 per cent of men and 76 per cent of women surveyed here wanted to work more flexible hours.

The poll out last week also noted that 55 per cent of men already had flexibility at work while 43 per cent of women were 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, 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 that they can better support their families."

This finding was also reflected in the other countries surveyed - Malaysia and the Philippines - Mr Mukherjee said.

The survey of 2,238 respondents, including 540 here, aimed to understand the employment challenges women and men face, especially regarding work-life balance and parental leave.

Almost 75 per cent of the men polled here said that they were seeking a job change where work-life balance was among their top priorities. About 42 per cent of these respondents were 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 survey also showed that Singaporean women face other challenges at work, with 55 per cent of local mums saying they believed they had missed out on career opportunities because they had children.

Mr Bryan Tan, CEO of the Centre for Fathering and Dads for Life, said the survey findings reflected a cultural shift where fathers, encouraged by years of pro-family messages from his organisation, companies 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 survey's other findings, where 41 per cent of men felt 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 meant more time with the family?" said Mr Leong.

Mr Leon Yeo, a co-founder of a fintech start-up, says 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 multinationals, where some subordinates became more productive when on flexi hours but some were unreachable while working from home and 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, all work from home.

"I have time to send my daughters to school and my wife to yoga class, as well as volunteer at my church, while working full-time," said Mr Yeo.

He and his wife, a homemaker, have a son of 20 and two daughters aged 18 and 12.

"We are determined to create a flexible working environment to ensure a good work-life balance for everyone regardless of gender," said Mr Yeo.

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