WITH a globally tight labour market, businesses need to attract and retain talent. Greater emphasis is placed on creating a workplace that helps employees to achieve a better balance between life and work.

As an initiative of the Ministry of Manpower, the Tripartite Committee on Work-Life Strategy was set up in September 2000 to drive the promotion of work-life harmony in Singapore.

The question corporations often ask is: "How does a work-life strategy contribute to business success?"

Business benefits

Work-life strategies contribute to a more committed and productive workforce and this translates into business success in several ways:

* Low turnover rates;

* Low number of staff taking sick leave;

* Higher staff morale resulting in an overall increase in productivity and customer service;

* Enhanced brand loyalty as longer serving employees are able to build relationship with clients;

* Increased ability to attract and retain good employees; and

* Enhanced reputation of the company, both within the industry and outside, as loyal staff spread the good word.

For companies, this means increased efficiency, productivity, competitiveness, better branding and an enhanced corporate image. In a nutshell, a more profitable business.

Personal benefits

Working for a forward-thinking company that has adopted work-life strategies provides employees with both the means and the opportunities to better harmonise the demands of work and life.

It is the employee's personal responsibility to achieve that goal. Balancing personal time, family time, work responsibilities and community contributions is possible, and the rewards include:

* A happier and healthier family life;

* Improved physical and emotional health;

* A more satisfying and successful career; and

* Opportunities to achieve personal goals.

Personal priorities change at different stages of one's life and individuals must constantly examine and modify these. To succeed as partners, employees and employers need to keep in mind that achieving a balance is a life-long programme that needs flexibility and mutual understanding.

Both employers and employees must play their part to make work-life harmony a reality.

Employers' support for work-life friendly infrastructure and programmes will be fruitful only when employees make the effort to integrate work and life, and use the work-life programmes available to them.

Making it work

Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and KPMG Singapore are two companies which understand the benefits, the rewards and the logistics of implementing work-life programmes. In 2006, they won the Work-Life Excellence Award, a badge of recognition for companies committed to creating an engaged workforce through the innovative and effective implementation of work-life strategies. They share the secrets of their success.

* Tan Tock Seng Hospital

Ms Lim Lian Yan, assistant director of HR Wellness at TTSH, says: "Although TTSH already has its own staff gym, we tied up with a private gym to offer staff a more comprehensive range of wellness based activities.

"Employees can now select from a much wider range of activities, from a basic gym workout to a variety of fitness classes at a very economical cost. They can participate at their own time and pace, with their family and friends."

The hospital now extends mass activities such as movie treats to employees' family members and friends to encourage family togetherness and staff bonding. Staff members can now achieve both personal wellness goals and spend quality time with their family.

TTSH also acknowledges the efforts of its Staff Support Staff (3S) volunteers during service recognition events. The 3S is essentially a peer support programme in which volunteer staff supporters provide emotional support to colleagues during stressful or traumatic events in the course of their work.

* KPMG Singapore

KPMG Singapore has almost 2,000 staff in Singapore. The firm, which provides audit, tax and advisory services, promotes a supportive work environment through a variety of work-life programmes and benefits.

It respects the need for annual leave by encouraging staff to plan their leave in advance. A monthly leave report enables the firm's partners and managers to monitor and help staff plan their leave.

The company also supports sports and leisure programmes through the KPMG Recreation Club, which encourages healthy living and promotes camaraderie. This has a positive effect on teamwork.

Mr Stephen Tjoa (right), executive director of People, Performance & Culture at KPMG in Singapore, says: "KPMG is proud of the strides we have made in our initiatives targeted at encouraging a work-life balance. It starts first with having the right mindset by encouraging a work-life balance-friendly attitude at all levels of the firm.

"This appreciation for a work-life balance must start at the top; and only with this support can incentives and initiatives implemented on the ground - encouraging staff to seek a work-life balance - be expected to work."