Call to offer flexi-work 'to stay competitive'

Companies can see the benefits of better work-life arrangements but many are still reluctant to embrace them.

They may not have much of a choice soon, employers and human resource practitioners were told on Monday at the biennial Work-Life Conference.

Increasingly, being flexible is being competitive, as experts told more than 400 people at the event organised by the Tripartite Committee on Work-Life Strategy at the Concorde Hotel.

"As the next generation workforce starts to enter the labour market, employers who do not pay attention to work-life harmony and flexible work arrangements will find themselves at the losing end in this global war for talent," said Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Health, in her opening address at the conference.

She cited a survey this year by consultancy Universum, in which having good work-life harmony was the top career goal of the 6,000 undergraduates polled.

Last year, 41 per cent of employers offered at least one form of flexi-work arrangement, but experts said more can be done.

Ms Claire Chiang, chairman of Employer Alliance, which promotes work-life integration, said: "People believe work-life flexibility is something to work towards. It is a business imperative."

However, the execution of ideas is paralysed by "fear about whether there's going to be any negative impact", such as lower productivity.

Employees also have to take advantage of schemes offered by their firms, said Ms Cali Yost, who heads a flexible work strategy company in the United States.

For instance, employees and managers in Singapore should not view being visible in the office as a mark of productivity.

Mr Max Loh, managing partner for ASEAN and Singapore at Ernst & Young, said: "In an Asian environment, people still seem to feel that their careers will be short- changed if they... are not seen (at the office)."

To counter that, his company is trying to reduce the time spent in the office and to reward people for leaving on time. "It means that they work effectively."

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