HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
Tan Wei Leng

Empowering mothers at the workplace in Singapore


In his speech, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and the Secretary General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Mr Chan Chun Sing described the workplace of the future to be objective and time-driven – as long as objectives are met, there is no need to stay in the office for long hours.

The need to find the talent, the experience, and the knowledge workers who do not strictly adhere to a traditional orthodox working style or environment is rapidly becoming a reality in Singapore.

As working mothers, we continue to experience and be empowered in our roles, especially enabled through the power of collaborative technologies that are present in the market right now.

The option for me, like many new mothers around me, was to opt out of the workforce either for life or for a while so I can cope with work and family life. However, I did not take the road most travelled.

Here are a few ideas on how to empower mothers so that they remain in the workplace:

1) Make flexible working policies work for them
The management team should ideally provide the employees with guidelines on flexible working, offering tips on how to reap the best out of our tools needed to work from home, to how to maintain an online presence while working remotely.

I therefore felt empowered to maximise my time, especially with the right tools in executing my tasks and achieving my career goals.

2) Emphasise results, not just being present in the office
One common fear both managers and employees have is the perceived drop in productivity when an employee embarks on flexi work arrangements. The challenge is to make sure that both sides are aware of each other's expectations.

The expectations as well as the roles and responsibilities must be clear to both bosses and colleagues. Other aspects include communication (how they communicate) and how the work will be evaluated.

Many enterprises in Singapore face challenges in retaining institutional knowledge, continuity, and productivity because of their strict insistence to the traditional 9 to 5 face-time in the office.

Making sure "Workplace of the Future" is a state of mind rather than a physical location allowed my colleagues and I to create an "experience" that results from the convergence of technologies, people, and processes into one seamless digital experience that helps balance our personal and professional lives to the very best of our abilities.

3) Make sure your direct supervisor trusts you
Many women face a hard choice: to either progress in their career OR to have a family.

Many are hesitant about having babies and think work-life balance is a fairy tale especially when sad urban myths are told about how employers terminate or dispense with female employees when their family commitments inhibit their participation and time with the company.

The following comment by Mums@Work Singapore is particularly insightful, relevant and valuable in understanding what makes flexi-work, work:

The success of flexible work arrangements depends on the management approach and the structure/support that is in place. Out of more than 1000 flexi-positions that we have placed, those that fail are often those where the specific relationship between the direct supervisor and employee has failed.

As a result, even if there was management support, HR had the system to evaluate and manage, the job was redesigned, the arrangement still failed because of the direct relationship between the supervisor and the employee failed.

It is definitely about trust. The trust between the employer and the employee, in addition to the job is design and the key measures for success. Making sure you deliver on the outcomes as promised will greatly increase the trust your direct supervisor has for you.

With the changing expectations of the new age workforce, the introduction of concepts like Workplace of the Future and the drive for work-life balance puts increased pressure on employers and organisations.

I hope that this "theoretical concept" to working parents will soon become a workable reality. Work-life balance can exist in Singapore with the right state of mind and good support from the company.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Tan Wei Leng

Tan Wei Leng

Weileng Tan is Head of Marketing for Polycom in Southeast Asia and is a true advocate of how video collaboration can enable flexible working. Since joining Polycom in 2009, Weileng has been responsible for all aspects of marketing in SEA. Beyond Southeast Asian markets, Weileng has managed marketing activities in Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

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