Having worked in a few places, including an internship at a government agency, I realised that the only place (out of the few places that I have worked in, that is) that seemed to promote work-life balance is at the government agency. It wasn’t that there were any perks that came along with it, but rather, the place that I worked at switched off all their air-con at 7pm and lights at 8pm, hence that’s about the latest that you can stay to. Any later, we’d have to write in.

Of course, some people would say that this is red tape. For me, it’s a good way to make sure everyone goes home at a reasonable time. I seldom had to go home later than 7pm and I was quite glad for them. Why so? It’s because I’d worked in a private company before and stayed in office for more than 72 hours working – that’s 3 days for you.

Private companies tend to be more aware of their bottomline and it becomes imperative that their target milestones be met regardless of anything – and that meant you sacrificing your sleep. At the end of the day, they will just give you a pat on your back and that’s it. No further benefits, not even time off. In fact, asking for time off is a taboo. If you are rushing to finish some stuffs or to meet a milestone, the company thinks that you are slow.

You don’t have to stay back if you can complete your work in time everyday.

Yes, that’s what they always say. What the company doesn’t know is that the project manager is usually at fault for underestimating the timeline so that the company objectives can be met. I am not saying that the project manager should go against company objectives, but rather, I felt that he should have raised awareness that there is really insufficient time or that more resources are needed instead of forcing the team members to finish in 2 days things that normally need 5.

I simply can’t stand PMs who thinks their team members are robots. At the end of the day, we get pressurized, scolded, ill-treated and cold-shouldered when we can’t meet their targets. This is really ridiculous.

While the government agency didn’t provide perks as per se, the “red tapes” in place for applying for extension of working hours (in terms of air-con and lights) with a notification period somehow ensures that you will not be greeted with sudden OT. Of course, if you are working on computer-based projects, this doesn’t stop you from bringing work home, but at least you get to go home. 😛

But why would people subject themselves to such sadistic treatments? Pay. Companies compensate by offering a better pay package. However, better pay is relative and it’s really up to the individual to weight his priorities between work-life balance and fatter pay checks. So it does seem that you either have more time with less pay or less time with more pay. You can’t have the cake and eat it. News article reproduced from straitstimes.com below:

HELPING employees strike a balance between work and having a life outside the office has yet to catch on in a big way here.

Less than half the 627 executives polled recently by human resource consultancy Hudson said their companies offered perks such as flexible working hours, sabbaticals or gym membership.

Fewer executives also appear to be enjoying such benefits compared to two years ago: 46 per cent of those surveyed this year against 48 per cent in 2005.

This picture emerged in Hudson’s survey which was conducted in May to gauge employment outlook for the July to September period.

Explaining the dip in executives benefiting from work-life balance perks, Hudson’s country manager Mark Sparrow said: ‘It’s not that companies are discarding this concept. But it’s difficult to measure its effectiveness.’

With most firms engaged in a war for talent – which he said is becoming quite ‘mercenary’ – they prefer to attract and retain employees in more tangible ways like offering higher salaries.

Hudson found that the proportion of firms intending to hire employees from July to September remains high: 54 per cent.

Taking the lead is the consumer sector, with 58 per cent of firms having such plans. This is up from 51 per cent in the previous quarter.

The hiring boost is due to growth in areas such as entertainment, leisure and tourism.

But firms find it tough to hire suitable staff, with 38 per cent believing that a shortage of skilled workers is the most pressing challenge.

Thus, higher salaries are seen as the most important measure to attract top talent, with 27 per cent of firms saying so.

But it may surprise these employers that high pay is not what matters most to Singaporeans when they look for a job.

A recent survey by global recruitment firm Robert Walters found that 35 per cent of those polled said work-life balance was the main reason to join or stay on with an employer. Only about 15 per cent looked out for a great salary and benefits package.

The Hudson survey found that the most common work-life balance benefit is flexible working hours. The proportion of executives who enjoy this perk almost tripled, from 25 per cent in 2005 to 70 per cent this year.

Work-life balance programmes were most prevalent in the banking sector. Swiss bank UBS has a range of benefits, such as allowing employees to work from home and giving female staff 15 weeks of maternity leave – three weeks more than what the law provides for.

‘We believe that beyond the tangible compensations of work, our employees need to have a balanced, healthy and fun lifestyle in order to find fulfilment in their professional and personal lives,’ said its chief operating officer Teo Lay Sie.

OCBC Bank also offers staff flexible hours like part-time work and set up a recreational clubhouse and an in-house childcare centre.

‘We look at work-life balance as an increasingly important business component to attract and retain talent,’ said Ms Jacinta Low, head of planning and employee communications.

‘Our experience has shown that the promotion of a work-life balance culture helps to improve employees’ engagement, reduce staff turnover and improve customers’ satisfaction.’

sueann@sph.com.sg



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