Sher-li Torrey, Mums@Work (Singapore)

The truth is: Despite all the hype, not everyone is ready for Flexi-work. Not every organization can implement Flexi-work. So how do you know if you are Ready?

If you are a mother, ask yourself these questions:

Take a realistic look at your household income situation. Are you expected to contribute to more than 50% of the monthly household income? How stable is your spouse’s career? How many dependants are reliant on your monthly paycheck?

Are you comfortable with a work arrangement that is not the typical and likely to invite some negative reactions from co-workers and clients? Do you thrive and enjoy the work environment of being with your colleagues for long periods of time?

Are you a disciplined person who sets monthly and weekly goals for yourself?

Are you prepared to take on a position that allows more flexibility, but is not as high-ranking as your last held full-time position? Are you comfortable with a position that is not guaranteed of a promotion after a year?

Are you looking to a flexi-work option to be the sole solution to your child care problems?

The truth is: Most Flexi-work options (Though not all!) will never be able to generate the same income as a full-time job. For many mothers, this is actually a huge problem – and one that we need to discuss with the other family members before making a decision. Realistically, most part-time positions (even if they are Professional or Executive level) are not high-ranking positions. You may not manage staff or take up assignments that require much time-commitment.

Working part-time or from home can also cause some unhappiness amongst your colleagues, who might deem your arrangement as being unfair. Not being in the office throughout the day also means less ‘bonding time’ with your co-workers. It’s probably less likely you can build strong friendships in such working conditions, and such isolation can result in loneliness. (As one WAHM told me, she feels starved for adult conversation 5 days a week!)

Working from home does not solve your childcare problem either. As any mother knows, children need undivided attention at times. So unless you are prepared to multi-task (and do it well), it’s going to be a challenge to meet your deadlines and complete your household duties. Work at home mums (WAHM) or Part-time Working mums need to be very organized and plan their day-to-day activities. Time becomes even more of a challenge to manage.

Singapore (and most of Asia) is very new in setting up Work-from-home / Part-time Work arrangements for mothers. This can result in employers not being able to clearly come up with distinct, clear working arrangements when making decisions about (i) workload (ii) compensation (iii) promotional opportunities. Part-timers/ WAHM can sometimes be passed over for advancement opportunities. Occasionally you might also meet employers who form the misconception that part-timers are less committed or not as valuable. Workload can often be too much for a part-timer (who is actually doing a full-timer’s work)

Having said that, Flexi-work arrangements do allow you a greater control over how you manage your time – a precious commodity to any mother. Having some time during the day to take care of your maternal obligations is better than none. In addition, it’s a good stepping-stone for many mothers who do not want to be totally cut-off from the working world. As Information technology develops at a rapid pace, the skills required of any worker is constantly evolving and getting more demanding.

The longer someone stays away from the workforce, the more challenging it will be, to return to it later. Flexi-work arrangements in the form of a part-time role can be a good way to still keep one foot in the working world and have a fairly good work-life balance.

If you are an EMPLOYER, ask yourself these questions:

– Are you open to schemes that can help to improve cost-effectiveness and yet maintain productivity of your workforce?

– Is your HR team and management team ready to be in sync with the evolving needs of the new workforce generation?

– Are you keen to retain talent in your workforce? Do you face the problem of losing female workforce who choose to take on parenthood full-time?

– Do you have roles that may not require a full-time worker? Are you willing to tailor roles for highly talented employees?

In the same light, not all organizations can implement flexi-work options. Likewise, not all roles within an organization can be rearranged as a flexi-work arrangement. On a larger scheme of things, there are many benefits to flexi-work arrangements.

Generally, there have been noted to have an improvement in employee productivity, reduced absenteeism (due to work-family obligations and other personal needs) and a general reduction in costs, related to less work space, more productivity, less computer space and access needed etc. Most importantly, it allows employers to tap on a pool of potential quality employees such as mothers with many years of work experience.

One thing to note is: One size does not fit all. It’s therefore a great practice to implement flexi-work arrangements bit by bit as an employer.

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