MR ERIC Tan gives his staff extra leave for good attitude, good performance, length of service and even for staying healthy.

An employee at his real estate appraisal company, GSK Global, can get up to 49 days of leave a year.

"I tell them 'all of you are even better than a CEO'," says the 42-year-old, who takes no more than 10 days off a year.

Nor is it just a case of quantity. Mr Tan's employees can take their leave flexibly, a quarter of a day at a time, or encash it if they are not able to use it up.

They can also choose their working hours.

It is thanks to such measures that Mr Tan has been able to retain his staff in a highly competitive industry.

He realised this when one of his top performers showed him seven job offers she had received, only to tell him that she would not consider any of them.

Such measures require personal commitment from the boss. As a member of the Tripartite Committee on Work-Life Strategy, Mr Tan says many bosses here still question the business case for work-life balance.

Experts add that even bosses who support more work-life balance for their employees still face cost and manpower pressures, and need the right tools.

Their greatest challenge, says president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme) Chan Chong Beng, is how to set and track the right key performance indicators (KPIs) if they are to let their staff work from home or on flexible hours. It is for lack of the right KPIs that bosses continue to demand maximum face-time from their staff.

Agreeing, Ms Andrea Ross, managing director of recruitment consultancy Robert Walters, says: "Companies will need to closely watch their KPIs and clearly outline employee expectations if they are to maintain productive management of staff."

In recognition of the role and difficulties of bosses, Asme intends to promote work-life balance "from the top".

Mr Chan says bosses can send the message from day one, during the job interview, that they are prepared for flexi-work arrangements.

They can also be the first to raise the idea of flexi-work when staff members face more family pressures, since "most people would not want to bring these up with the towkay", he says.

HR experts add that bosses can avoid sending e-mails on weekends and leave the workplace on time, especially where staff are afraid to leave before the boss.

Asme plans seminars for SMEs and is training its advisers to SMEs to include work-life balance as an element of enterprise development.

One way for bosses to overcome their anxieties is to pilot work-life balance measures for just one team, for example, or for a fixed period of time, before deciding whether to scale up the measures, suggests Mr Chan.

Counselling patience for results, he says: "At least give it a try for three months, and set very clear KPIs."

To those who continue to have doubts, Mr Tan says: "With all this labour tightening, bosses have to really learn how to trust employees. Empower them first, adjust accordingly... If they can produce equally good results, who cares what they're doing outside the office?"