Flexible working hours key for family-friendly workplace

Flexible working hours key for family-friendly workplace

A growing number of South Korean companies are taking initiatives to create a family-friendly environment to retain talented employees, but severe lack of time remains a problem for working parents in a country notorious for long working hours.

"I sleep three hours a day to take care of my two kids," Kim Hyun-kyung, a 31-year-old working mom, told The Korea Herald as she walked out of her office at 5 p.m.

She was in a rush, heading to two day care centers to pick up her kids, a 2-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy.

Kim and her husband, who both work at the leading hygiene products maker Yuhan-Kimberly, decided to use the company's flexible working hour policy so that she can start and finish work one hour earlier than the standard 9-to-6 workday.

Along with the flexible hour system, Yuhan-Kimberly implements several family-friendly management measures. The company operates a breast-feeding room for staff and conducts a survey on its employees' engagement with their family to find out their needs every two years.

It also has an on-site day care centre at its Daejeon factory where it can accommodate all its employees who wish to use it.

A growing number of public and private enterprises are making efforts to help their employees achieve balance between work and life as a way to tackle the social costs incurred by the exodus of professional women after giving birth and to attract talented people to the company.

According to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, a total of 552 companies have been certified as family-friendly workplaces, including small and medium enterprises and public organisations, since the ministry first introduced a certification system in 2008.

From designating a "family day" once a week to providing educational subsidies for employees and their families, many firms have family-friendly management practices that suit each company's situation.

Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance shuts down its computer servers at 6 p.m. sharp every Wednesday and encourages its employees to leave the office to spend more time with their family.

"We launched the campaign mainly in order to enhance productivity. Working late hampers creativity and increases fatigue. Overall, the system boosts morale as employees can spend more time with their family and for themselves," an official of the company's human resources department said.

Cheil Worldwide, a marketing agency, runs an employee counseling centre named Hyu, which runs on an annual budget of 70 million won (US$69,000).

The centre provides counseling programs tailored to each staff member, especially working parents with their first child, who are vulnerable to stress and are still learning childrearing techniques.

KBS Job, a call centre for financial firms, witnessed an actual boost in productivity after expanding its welfare system for working parents.

The number of successful calls increased by 29 per cent after the agency built an on-site child care centre in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province.

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