The National Family Council (NFC) hopes to shift the Singapore mindset here from being "work-first" to "family-first", and promote the idea that being pro- family makes business sense for companies.

NFC chairman Lim Soon Hock said that while many chief executives here already see the need for their businesses to be pro-family, there is still a tendency to expect their employees to put in "adequate, if not more, face time" in the office, which compromises work-life balance.

He called for a more progressive way of judging an employee's commitment to work: by assessing the quality of output and performance rather than by the number of hours clocked at the office.

"Major attitudinal shifts cannot take place if career and family aspirations continue to run counter to each other. Businesses need to adopt family as a leadership value, for a balance to be achieved," he said.

NFC hopes to pave the way for this rebalancing of priorities through its month-long National Family Celebrations to be held through this month. More than 400 events based on this year's theme, "100% Family: Made to Last" have been lined up, to revisit values such as love, respect, communication, commitment and filial responsibility.

This year, NFC will also reach out to youth, including young working adults, with its message.

As in previous years, corporate support for NFC will take the form of sponsorship of the celebration events; other companies will offer promotional deals for families.

Mr Lim said, however, that becoming a society that puts the family first will require greater involvement on a day-to-day basis - more than a month's worth of celebratory events can achieve.

Many past studies, including one done by the former Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), have shown that organisations that regard their employees' interests and business goals as being of equal importance enjoy higher revenue growth and lower recruitment costs.

Likewise, businesses that respond to the needs of their consumers' families earn increased patronage, customer loyalty and revenue.

Mr Lim said his own previous encounters with progressive human resource policies in the multinational corporations he worked at have strengthened his belief in a family-first work environment, especially since he saw that promoting work-life balance did nothing to dampen these companies' business achievements.

At his previous places of work - Compaq, SITA Inc. and DEC - employees had the discretion to work from home if circumstances arose. There was a lot of trust involved, with a basic expectation that employees would be responsible and get the job done, he said.

"It goes to show that it's possible to achieve business objectives and pro- family goals when we start to trust our employees and have a proper and equitable system in place to appraise performance. It's definitely not about adequate or more face-time in the office," he said.

"Having no time should never be an excuse for not spending time with loved ones. Anything to do with the family is like running a marathon; there's no end to it. We'll have to continue to work hard at it to promote the family and the 'family-first' mindset, until it becomes a part of our culture, much like in some Scandinavian countries."