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Case study: How Go-Ahead Singapore moves forward with flexibility for employees

In the August edition of Human Resources (Singapore), we explored the concept of work-life harmony in a special feature involving a range of stakeholders from foodpanda and Go-Ahead Singapore for their take on what integrating work and life really means. 

In this individual case study, we focus on the views of the employer, a working parent, a line manager, and a Millennial, from Go-Ahead Singapore.

At public transport operator Go-Ahead Singapore, employees are offered the flexibility to choose a work schedule that best suits them. Wang Poon Liang, Human Resources Director, who represents the employer’s demographic, has observed that having such an arrangement in place has positively impacted employees’ lives and attitudes towards work and the company.

One such employee is Jane Lim, Senior HR Officer, who once had to take care of her critically ill father, and most recently, her newborn son. In those days, Go-Ahead Singapore had standard working hours and due to the inflexibility of this, Lim was constantly faced with the challenges of being there for her father, and son, while committing to work as well.

However, with the flexible work scheme in place, Lim, who represents the working parent’s demographic, is now finally able to successfully fulfil her duties at home and in the office.

She shares: "For example, I have the option of reporting to work later and making up for it by ending work later in the evening to tend to my son’s needs when necessary. I was also able to be there for my late father when he needed me and ensured that he always had someone present to look after him."

Like Lim, Michelle Ng, Senior Executive, Marketing & Communications, is also able to better plan her schedule with the new scheme.

She comments: "I find myself being more productive when I come into the office earlier and I can plan out my daily tasks better. This helps to free up more time after work to have an evening meal with family members or pursue a passion that I am interested in."

Weighing in on the impact of the scheme on employees such as Lim and Ng, Human Resources Manager Maggie Shek, who represents the line manager’s demographic, says employees do feel positive about the company being understanding and flexible towards their personal needs, allowing them to focus and give their all at work.

In turn, the company has been able to successfully retain talent within and attract new candidates to join the company.

From the reduction in staff turnover, we achieved effectiveness in cost and resource.
It is a win-win situation as it allows us to remain competitive in the industry with a sustained and dedicated workforce," says Shek.

Having said that, with every new implementation comes its own set of concerns – in this case, when Go-Ahead Singapore first embarked on this flexible work scheme, some managers were not used to their team members adopting different work hours and feared losing control over managing their team. Employees also started raising concerns about being penalised for leaving work earlier.

Addressing these issues did take the leadership team some time, as Wang shares, but he stresses:

Our appraisal system is an objective-based evaluation, measuring the quality of work and achievements of an individual instead of the amount of face time in the office.
This has, as a result, helped alleviate some of the fears.

The flexible working scheme aside, Go-Ahead Singapore also makes it a point to encourage work-life harmony by organising wellness activities such as brisk walks, sports interest groups, and festival celebrations to foster a community spirit. There is also a part-time work scheme in the works, catered to employees who have reached retirement age, but are still fit enough and interested in working.

Going forward, Wang says the company plans to introduce the option to work from home "progressively and whenever possible", although he admits it may not be applicable to all job scopes.

Apart from that, Lim and Ng share their wish list for the top three work-life programmes that could help employers attract and retain the different generations, and working parents in today’s workforce.

First, Ng, who represents the Millennial’s demographic, suggests the concept of telecommuting, which would allow employees to work in a remote location and connect with their teammates over communication technologies.

She says: "It is not to be assumed the employee does not want to be in the work environment, but rather, provided as an available option on a situational or regular basis. The employee can be made known of his or her role in ensuring a workable telecommuting arrangement."

This way, she adds, employees are able to retain more time in their day, instead of spending it commuting, while also choosing how to be at their most productive.

Next, Lim 'strongly believes' a compressed work-week arrangement would be beneficial to employees with varied responsibilities, such as working mothers like herself. In such an arrangement, employees work full-time hours in fewer days a week, freeing up one or more days for other non work-related activities.

She adds: "What a respite this would be, especially for employees juggling multiple roles. I know this would save me some dilemma when my child’s vaccinations need to be scheduled, schools are closed or simply for a family day out!"

Both foodpanda and Go-Ahead Singapore are adopters of the Tripartite Standards (TS). TS consists of a series of good employment practices that are important for all employers to implement and allows organisations to differentiate themselves as progressive employers.

Visit tafep.sg to find out more on the Tripartite Standards.

This case study first appeared in the August issue of Human Resources magazine (Singapore). Read the full feature in the magazine, or online!


Images / provided (From L-R: Wang Poon Liang, Human Resources Director, Go-Ahead Singapore; Maggie Shek, Human Resources Manager, Go-Ahead Singapore; Jane Lim, Senior HR Officer, Go-Ahead Singapore; Michelle Ng, Senior Executive, Marketing & Communications, Go-Ahead Singapore.

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