Do you work to live or live to work?

IT IS 8.30am on Monday morning and you arrive at the office like clockwork. You turn on your computer and every associated piece of gadgetry known to the human race.

The phone begins to ring, there are e-mail messages to answer, meetings to attend — and so your 11-hour plus workday begins.

It is almost 8pm before you pack up for the day and wearily head for home, fighting for space like a sardine on your familiar journey home.

En route, you check for messages on your smartphone — just in case the boss has e-mailed you from his hotel in Hong Kong.

Does this scenario sound all too familiar to you?
According to a workplace survey conducted last year, 69 per cent of Singaporean professionals stay glued to work after office hours.
In his National Day Rally speech this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed the issue of falling fertility rates and the need to improve work-life balance.
He highlighted with a touch of humour that more needed to be done to promote flexible work arrangements: “We also have to improve work culture and employer attitudes so that you have certain new norms which are set and maybe we should take seriously the idea of having one day a week when you close shop at six o’clock and if you are seen in the office after that, then that is a minus for promotion purposes!”

He acknowledged that achieving work-life balance needed a change in employer attitudes as well as the attitudes of the individuals pursuing their careers. So instead of laying the blame squarely on our employers, the onus is on each of us to review our priorities in life.
If you genuinely want work-life balance, then the desire to make it happen must first come from you.

Here are five necessary conditions for work-life balance:

1 Do you really want it?
Some professionals are more than happy to dedicate their entire lives (and by extension, those of their family members) to the cause of their employer. While it is imperative to have a passion for your work, it is essential to put your family first. After all, isn’t supporting the family the reason why we often work the way we do in the first instance?

So ask yourself again: “How badly do I want work-life balance?”

2 The smart use of technology
Smartphones, tablets, cloud servers and the plethora of applications available today enable employees to put in a good day’s work without the need for them to be physically present in the office.

Of course, for this to work, managers must set out clearly what they expect from their people. Both parties must also agree on where the line should be drawn with regard to responding to phone calls and e-mail outside regular office hours or during annual leave.

3 Bond with that caring colleague
Having high social capital at work can prove to be a tremendous form of support for work-life balance. The simple adage of “neighbour helping neighbour” will often go a long way in helping everyone at the office stay sane in an otherwise insane business landscape. The fears of taking maternity leave or other flexi-work arrangements will suddenly seem a distant memory when such an environment exists.

4 Are you working for a boss who genuinely believes in work-life balance?
One top performer in a company reportedly turned down no less than seven job offers because his boss truly believed in the importance of work-life balance for his employees. Unique flexi-work arrangements, time-off rewards for good work attitudes and excellent performance, reasonable key performance indicators (KPIs), and the boss’ genuinely caring spirit are some of the ways you can determine if you are in the right place — or if you need to move on.

5 When the going gets tough
The journey towards successfully achieving work-life balance runs along a two-way street. Are you willing to carry your fair share and a little bit extra during tough times when your boss needs you to? Loyalty, responsibility and commitment at work speak volumes about your professionalism and your appreciation for what the company has done for you.

It can happen
Work-life balance need not be an elusive dream. While the Government and employers can make the work environment more supportive, the final responsibility lies with you to make the right choice.

Article by Adrian Tan, managing director of RecruitPlus Consulting. For more information, visit and