TAFEP Hero 2023 June
Goodbye, work-life balance; Hello, work-life harmony

Goodbye, work-life balance; Hello, work-life harmony

We've all heard about work-life balance, but what do we know about work-life harmony and its importance in today's workforce? To find out, Priya Sunil interviews a wide range of stakeholders – from MDs to HR directors, line managers, working parents and Millennials – for their take on what integrating work and life really means.

Look around you and ask someone what work-life balance means to them, and they’ll think about achieving balance between their work and life responsibilities.

That said, employers are increasingly phasing out 'balance', in favour of integration, or even 'harmony', defined by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) as: "A state in which an individual is able to achieve both personal and professional goals in a combination that is uniquely satisfactory."

In line with this, Human Resources Online decided to delve into what this really means – not just to employers and line managers who have to implement policies that support this concept, but also to Millennials and working parents who are benefitting from these policies.

After all, these two demographics are taking up more places in today’s workforce and will continue to grow in importance.

Hence, in this feature, we present the views of four demographics – employers, line managers, Millennials and working parents, in two separate organisations – to present you with a holistic viewpoint. Before that, to get the ball rolling, we share with you some of the key findings of a wide-ranging survey on the work-life landscape in Singapore.

Evolution of the work-life landscape in Singapore

The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), in collaboration with The Straits Times, conducted a survey on work-life harmony and flexible work arrangements (FWAs). The survey results, released in June, captured the responses of 511 employers and 1,000 employees.

This survey, which was first conducted in 2014, aimed to understand the current state of work-life harmony in Singapore, the challenges of implementation, and to gain insights of views and concerns of both employers and employees.

What has changed in the past five years?

An ageing and shrinking population is having an impact on the workforce.

Juggling work responsibilities while managing caregiving duties of both children and ageing parents can take a toll on the 'sandwiched' generation in the workforce.

Many of them rely on external resources for support such as childcare centres for their children, or senior centres for their parents, due to fewer or no siblings to share the responsibilities with.

Meanwhile, extended families have also shrunk, further straining alternative caregiving resources.

The multiple responsibilities, as an employee, parent and child, will also intensify time stress and possibly increase mental, emotional and financial pressures as well. All these can lead to burnout if not managed properly.

These factors point towards a much greater need for work-life harmony among employees today. As all employees juggle multiple roles, their needs cut across different age groups, genders and life and career stages.

Note: Work-life harmony is defined as a state in which an individual is able to achieve both personal and professional goals in a combination that is uniquely satisfactory. This differs across individuals as different people have different needs, responsibilities, values and priorities. 

What are the key findings from the survey?

Shift 1: Work-life programmes are being implemented more strategically and formally, resulting in greater alignment between employers and employees.

Employers are increasingly recognising the value of work-life programmes in managing manpower needs – 82% agreed they enhanced their company image and 80% agreed they were important in attracting and recruiting top talent, up from 68% and 74% respectively in 2014.

The survey also showed a shift towards formal channels in communicating available work-life programmes to the organisation, suggesting that policies and practices are becoming more structured and formalised.



These shifts have resulted in employers and employees being more aligned in their views towards work-life harmony.

The survey revealed that 83% of employers, up from 80% in 2014, believed that employees should have the flexibility to manage their time and schedule as long as they were able to meet work targets, converging with 82% of employees, up from 76% in 2014, who believed their supervisor provided them the flexibility to do so.

Shift 2: Middle managers recognise their role as facilitators

The results showed that a growing proportion of supervisors are beginning to understand and accept the role they play in facilitating the organisation’s work-life strategy. In fact, 72%, up from 64% in 2014, saw it as their responsibility to ensure their employees achieve work-life harmony.

Meanwhile, 81% of supervisors were aligned with the organisation's communicated policy on work-life harmony, up from 68% in 2014. Their increased support is felt by employees, where 'support from supervisors' was highlighted as the top key enabler that helped employees achieve good work-life harmony.

With the implementation of FWAs becoming more prevalent among workplaces today, supervisors are managing teams who may be on a combination of flexible work arrangements within their team, resulting in greater operational concerns. Supervisors were concerned about equity in workload in their team when a team member requests to be on a flexible work arrangement.

Notably, the percentage of supervisors who were concerned that employees were not getting his or her job done fell from 56% to 28%, which indicates that supervisors might be putting in place more effective ways to measure performance.


Lead photo / 123RF

Interviewees' photos / provided

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

Free newsletter

Get the daily lowdown on Asia's top Human Resources stories.

We break down the big and messy topics of the day so you're updated on the most important developments in Asia's Human Resources development – for free.

subscribe now open in new window