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To better work-life harmony in 2020: Five ideas for employers

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Be it work-life balance, harmony, integration or synergy – whichever school of thought or organisational culture model you come from, getting better at synergising the professional life of employees with their personal life is sure to be among your top three to-do priorities for 2020.

With that in mind, we’ve presented five ideas below to consider in drawing out your work-life harmony (WLH) strategies for the year ahead. Perhaps you’re already doing these, so it may be a worthy reminder; or they may be newer ideas for you to explore with your management team:

Idea 1: Front Line Day 

Front Line Day is a day when senior management and HR personnel undertake customer-facing jobs for a day. This allows them to develop a firsthand perspective of the challenges faced by frontline employees.

Additionally, senior management and HR through their distinct vantage point, may discover potential operational “gaps” which can be optimised to either reduce employee workload, improve staff retention, or increase profits; this is particularly relevant when suboptimal processes have been normalised by frontline workers.

Idea 2: Appointment of WLH Champions, outside of senior management and HR

WLH Champions would be employees outside of senior management and HR, having the autonomy to speak on behalf of fellow employees, who would remain anonymous. These conduits would reduce employee hesitation to speak up; particularly relevant for employees who have yet to build rapport with their immediate boss, manager, or HR, whose interests are perceived to be misaligned.

Each WLH Champion can consider how the suite of available WLH options can be tailored and potentially operationalised to meet their organisation’s specific needs and requirements.

Idea 3: Protected work-time (i.e. whitespace time)

Workplace interruptions from colleagues and their superiors delay and/or prevent a worker from completing a task due to diversion of attention from the task at hand. This requires the worker to invest additional time to return to their original task.

Thus, this idea aims to nudge and equip employees with the means to initiate a dialogue with their colleagues and immediate supervisors, so that they may set aside time to work, free of interruptions.

The negotiation of protected work time would need to encompass the details of how best to operationalise this so that the needs of all stakeholders are taken into account, while achieving the objective of minimising or eliminating disruptions.

Additionally, the worker must be assured that they will not be stigmatised or subjected to punitive actions (e.g. docking of pay) as a consequence of not being as accessible to colleagues and their employers. An example of protected work time, is an employee who requests to have calls held for an hour on Tuesday morning to allow for the completion of the departmental report.

Idea 4: Employee mental wellbeing through mindfulness

Ad hoc strategically-employed mindfulness meditation (e.g., 15 minutes before a potentially contentious meeting) should be promoted. Many employers are unaware of this application of mindfulness meditation, which can be cost-effective, time-efficient, and may avoid some of the negative consequences of more protracted mindfulness programmes that last several days.

On-the-spot mindfulness meditation practices acknowledge that there are many occasions when workers do need to reflect on the past (e.g., to learn from mistakes) or project mentally into the future (e.g., to sustain drive and ambition). There should be guidance available on how to recognise situations that would benefit from mindfulness meditation.

Idea 5: Enhance sharing of WLH best practices by HR professionals and senior managers through multiple avenues

Some examples include:

  • Industry-specific meetings or forums (e.g., manufacturing, real estate, marine, technology, civil service) where best practices are shared.
  • Case studies submitted by organisations to showcase their solutions in a centralised portal that reaches out to employers and employees.
  • Publications. For instance, industry-specific white papers that elaborate on the intricacies relevant to adopting WLH initiatives.
  • Interviews, success stories and commentaries can be disseminated through similar channels that the Government uses to communicate policy changes.

These ideas have been adapted from the Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony established in Singapore, comprising 55 Singaporeans – ranging from employers and employees from various occupations and sectors, to grandparents and homemakers.

On 9 November 2019, the Panel shared their recommendations with community leaders, representatives from employer and employee groups, and political office holders, and have drafted their recommendations in the report, of which excerpts have been adapted here.

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