Clocking in and out at a preset workplace is a hangover from a different era. Then, men and women were asked to work to Fordist routines mostly. But now, the economy demands flexibility from the workforce - for example, working at odd hours or different locations. Yet, organisational cultures often cling to the past, despite a fillip to flexible work arrangements given by the Government and labour movement. Under the Manpower Ministry's Work-Life Grant scheme, firms can receive as much as $40,000 for launching flexi programmes.
The latest Randstad World of Work Report revealed that only 20 per cent of Singapore employers would adopt flexi work to deal with talent woes - "significantly lower than other developed economies in the region". However, bosses do not see themselves as stumbling blocks. In a local survey, eight in 10 said they supported initiatives to help staff juggle the demands of work and personal life. There's the rub - practice lags theory. Anecdotal evidence implicates work culture in the slow adoption of variable work hours, job-sharing or working from home. Almost six in 10 bosses polled fret over productivity. Are those teleworking staff really getting the job done? How are customers' pressing demands being met and how effective is internal communication when some are out of the loop? Consequently, the jobsworths in an organisation might brook no exception to rules, citing reduced efficiency.
Clearly, a cultural change is needed and this is a function of factors like new skill sets imparted across the organisation - from the C-suite to the shopfloor. For example, target setting needs to be more detailed and the process of adding value more explicit. Importantly, a culture of trust must be developed so staff do not shun flexi work out of fear it could be career-limiting. This is an exercise worth pursuing not just to hone collaborative skills within an organisation but also to further the larger social objective of enhancing the pro-family environment here.
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