So read my Facebook Status update, a day after the Prime Minister had delivered his National Day Rally Speech. PM Lee Hsien Loong spoke about the Singapore government’s plans to encourage marriage and parenthood. He brought up the case of the female teacher, with 4 children who mentioned her desire for work-life balance, and yet felt that it was not for the government to give. She probably spoke on behalf of many mothers in Singapore.
As PM Lee highlighted, there are likely to be initiatives targeting employers to encourage more practices that support work-life balance in the next few months. Flexible Work Arrangements could possibly be encouraged through financial grants or somewhat similar options. The civil service could lead by example and showing how Flexible Work Arrangements can be implemented in an organization.
Yet, the question remains: Are financial incentives sufficient?
Some of the most successful flexible work arrangements I have personally come across are not established officially. It is a mutually-agreed upon decision made between a supervisor and his/ her team member. When questioned why the arrangement has to be done on such hush-hush terms, the answer usually ties back to the fear of more employees requesting for the same. How can top management view Flexible Work Arrangement less negatively?
It is really mindset change that is required in order for work-life balance to be achieved. After all, how many converts can a “Let’s not laugh at our colleague who leaves work on time” campaign create?
Rather than just offering money, the government can look at ways to educate employers on how Flexible Work Arrangements can be a win-win situation for both employer and employee. Create genuinely helpful platforms whereby employers can seek help in offering flexible work arrangement positions. Set up technological support teams that facilitate work-from-home arrangements.
The rules can be in place – but these are issues that are intangible and would take a much longer time to change. PM Lee rightfully said that it is not money that is the question here, but values and deep motivation.
To strike a balance is defined as “to make a compromise”. In essence, work-life balance is about compromise. Parents need to ask themselves: What can you give up to achieve what you want? And more importantly, what do you want?
I have often met stay at home mothers that gave up their careers to look after their children. Their roles are often downplayed. Looking at many of the current parenthood incentives, one would think that a woman gets penalized for ‘’taking a few years out from her career, to start a family.” Yet, many stay at home mothers often speak of the joys of motherhood. Highlighting their personal stories – their positive experience of a fulfilled family life could also be great inspiration. Incentives that benefit stay at home mothers can also be considered, if the real goal of higher fertility rate is to be reached.
I lost my business deal because of the last minute cancellation, but I got quality time with my 4 year old daughter. To me, that tip of the scales, to achieve momentary balance was worth it.