Integrating work and life is not a challenge specific to Singapore but a global phenomenon. In Singapore, the Government has been actively promoting this idea for more than a decade.

The Ministry of Manpower conducts a Conditions of Employment Survey every two years to look at work-week patterns, leave entitlements, flexible work arrangements and other family-friendly benefits.

In the recent survey done in 2010, an encouraging trend emerged, showing that family-friendly work practices are on the rise. It found that 35.4 per cent of organisations provided at least one form of family-friendly arrangements. This is up from 28.1 per cent in 2008, when the survey was last conducted.

Why it makes business sense

Many studies have shown that employees who are able to effectively balance the demands of work and their personal or family life are motivated to do their best at work. In short, work-life strategies can address the business needs of the organisation while meeting the personal needs of the employees.

Considering the rising aspirations of a better-educated workforce, employers will find that providing a work-life balance gives them a competitive edge to attract and retain employees, improve employee engagement, and enhance business performance and productivity. It is more a sustainable edge, as it is not possible for companies to keep offering higher salaries and bonuses to attract and retain staff.

Benefits to the company

The Singapore National Employers Federation did a study in 2003 and found that for every dollar spent on family-friendly programmes, the company reaped an average return of $1.68. There are also other indirect non-monetary benefits such as:

* Reduced absenteeism and health costs

With family-friendly practices in place, employee performance can be improved by reducing absenteeism, lateness and sick-leave, and their related costs.

* Better staff morale

With a healthier and more balanced life, employees can concentrate better at work, be more motivated, and enjoy higher job satisfaction.

* Improved customer satisfaction

By working flexible hours, the company’s operating hours may be longer, thus offering better customer service. At the same time, employees who have their personal needs addressed are more likely to go the extra mile for customers. 

Getting started

Companies can turn to the Work-Life Works! (WoW!) Fund for a one-time grant to introduce work-life strategies at the workplace. There is also Employer Alliance, a network of corporations committed to enhancing work-life integration, for ideas.

Work-life strategies can be divided into three categories:

    * flexible work arrangements (flexible work arrangements, part-time work, job sharing, flexi-time, telecommuting);

    * enhanced leave benefits (extended maternity leave, study/exam leave, paternity leave, marriage leave, compassionate leave, childcare / eldercare leave, voluntary service leave)

    * employee support schemes (bring your child to work day, childcare arrangements, lactation room, social activities for singles).