School holiday time-off

PHOTO: School holiday time-off

ENGINEER Loke Lai Yee loves it when the school holidays come around.

The mother of two gets to knock off from work half a day earlier every Friday to spend time with her family.

Madam Loke, 33, joined Rockwell Automation Singapore about 2½ years ago, largely because of the flexibility it offers mothers.

Since 2008, the American company has allowed all employees in its Singapore office to knock off at 4.30pm every Friday.

And during the school holidays, parents can leave at 12.30pm on Fridays.

The company's human resource manager Dennis Ng said its Family Friendly Friday (FFF) was implemented to promote "better morale and work-family life integration".

Employees can make up for their shorter Fridays by putting in longer hours over the other days of the week, he said.

The industrial automation giant is just one of the growing number of companies which offer family-friendly initiatives.

FFF is a spin-off from Eat With Your Family Day, a yearly event started in 2003 by the Centre For Fathering. (See other report.)

This year, 162 corporate organisations, 48 government agencies and 142 schools and educational institutes took part in the initiative. Mr Lim Soon Hock, chairman of the National Family Council and Centre For Fathering, is heartened by the pro-family initiatives that companies like Rockwell have implemented.

He said: "It is very enlightening and progressive. I wish there were more business like them.

"They must have realised the many benefits of introducing pro-family initiatives geared towards both employees and customers - such as generating more revenue, increasing productivity and reducing absenteeism and attrition."

Madam Loke welcomes the flexibility as Fridays are the only day of the week her family of four can have a meal together.

"My husband is a frequent traveller, but his Fridays are usually untouched. Sometimes, I will take my children to the airport and meet him for a late lunch after he touches down," she said.

Rockwell, where 60 per cent of its employees are married, also allows staff to choose their working hours - start between 7am and 9.30am, or even after 4pm, as long as they clock eight hours of work a day.

Another company with family-friendly working arrangements is Atlas Sound & Vision.

Every three months

Instead of holding Eat With Your Family Day once a year, the company has been holding it every three months since 2010.

Its deputy chief executive officer, Mr Sherwin Tien Siregar, said: "We implemented this to celebrate and reinforce the importance of family. It seeks to remind everyone to refocus their priorities and set aside time for their family in today's fast-paced environment."

The company, in which most of the workforce are married, also has a special category of leave called the Flexible Family Care Leave, which employees can use to accompany family members to medical appointments, or to accompany their children on their first day of school.

Mr Sherwin said: "Often, family-type leave is based on a specific stereotype, (like) marriage leave, childcare leave. However, not all families fall within this specific typecast."

To illustrate his point, he raised the example of how a single woman taking care of her mother at home, for instance, would appreciate a company's support in this aspect.

"Therefore, we introduced this leave which is more flexible. We recently enhanced this to even include in-laws and grandparents," he added.

Employees in both companies said the initiatives lead to a more productive workforce.

Said Mr Ng: "FFF is well received and, together with other engagement initiatives including community works, this has resulted in more motivated employees and a strong retention of staff."

Of the work hours lost from implementing family-friendly measures, Mr Sherwin said he does not "consider it a sacrifice as Atlas staff are passionate and committed to their work".

"As such, we strongly believe that they are willing to go the extra mile when necessary. This benefits both the employer and employees," he said.

Eat With Your Family Day

THE yearly event on the last Friday of May encourages employees of participating companies to have dinner with their family as a starting point for bonding.

This year, 162 corporate organisations, 48 government agencies and 142 schools and educational institutes took part.

Mr Lim Soon Hock, chairman of the National Family Council and Centre for Fathering, said: "The number (of participating organisations) has increased over the last decade, up from less than 50 sign-ups in 2003.

"It is very encouraging that the initiative has such a strong appeal and good following."

He added that the numbers reflect only organisations who have registered with the Centre For Fathering, but that there are many other businesses who practise it.

fjieying@sph.com.sg


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