By Melissa Sim
CUSTOMERS who walked into DBS Bank's Shenton Way office yesterday could have been forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into a playschool by accident.
There were balloons everywhere, crayons were strewn all over the floor, and the shrieks of hundreds of screaming children filled the air.
There was no mistake, though - important business was still being conducted at the bank, albeit at a noisier-than-usual level.
DBS yesterday kicked off the national Little Ones @ Work programme, which encourages companies to allow employees to take their children to work at least once a year.
Four hundred children, aged between three and 12, spent the morning engaged in games and activities, and later joined their parents at their workstations.
The children were at the office from as early as 7.30am, and left at about 6 pm, toting special goodie bags filled with snacks and stationery.
The programme was launched by the National Trades Union Congress' (NTUC) deputy secretary-general, Madam Halimah Yacob.
It was an initiative of the NTUC's Women's Development Secretariat (WDS), which develops and implements programmes to help working women and to get more non-working women into the workforce.
Madam Halimah, who is also the director of the WDS, said Little Ones @ Work would help managers and co-workers identify with the children and allow them to see employees as parents.
'We forget that people have multiple roles. They do not cease being parents when they go to work.
'So helping people manage their family commitments and giving them peace of mind is an important strategy in enhancing efficiency and productivity.'
She said supporting families is especially important during a recession, when employees work longer hours out of fear that they might be retrenched.
So far, the programme has attracted 23 companies, and will involve about 1,200 children and their parents.
The companies include CityGas, Keppel Logistics, Ericsson Telecommunications and Kraft Asia.
Another company, SingPost, said it would be interested in joining, while others said they already have similar opportunities for staff to take their children to work.
Yesterday, Madam Halimah said big, established companies like DBS have a special responsibility to lead the way, but she also urged more SMEs to follow suit.
She said most do not have family friendly practices because of their size and less professional human relations divisions.
But she pointed out that studies have shown that good work-life balance programmes enhance a company's bottom line.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.