My son is 4 years old. I used to be excited about heading home to see him, but I began to notice that he always cried after I got home. “This isn’t quite right,” I thought. It finally hit me that my return signalled that it was bedtime — Papa’s home, time to sleep!
Not only was that emotional battle tough, I struggled with the fact that we only had a short window together at the end of each day. I previously worked regular office hours and would go home close to dinner time. After talking with my wife, who currently is a stay-at-home mum (SAHM), we decided to take on this new role with flexible working arrangements at Focus on the Family Singapore. It has been a win-win-win — I contribute professionally, I get to enjoy the tangible benefits of a great work-life culture, and my family is closer too.
The work-life benefits at my former organisation were mostly financial in nature, but in this season of life with a young child, I think what’s truly beneficial is to be able to work from home. In my wife’s words, “Got money, so what?” I can see my child is happier now, and we have more time for emotional connection.
In September, I went on Capital958 to share how work-life arrangements benefit family life; a business owner also shared his journey to foster better work-life harmony for his employees. I was encouraged to hear that he goes over and beyond what the Government recommends, i.e. he offers 3 weeks of paternity leave, instead of the suggested 2 weeks, among other things.
My child is happier now, and we have more time for emotional connection.
The term work-life harmony has been bandied around for a while now, so what can leaders in an organisation do if they want to start but don’t know how? I have some suggestions.
1. “I think this is what my team needs.”
Do a quick survey to find out what “work-life balance” really means to your staff. Depending on staff demographics and individual needs, it might range from a workplace adjustment, like regular fitness-focused activities, to flexible working arrangements.
2. “My workplace just isn’t family-friendly.”
If there has never been a culture of family-friendliness, it’s never too late to start building one! Introduce lunchtime talks to create awareness. It goes beyond parenting, so you can also consider talks about elderly care, caregiver burnout, self-care, and nutrition. When your team sees that your organisation is genuinely concerned for them beyond their work performance, you’ll earn greater loyalty too.
3. “Aren’t work-life arrangements only for employees with young kids?”
Whether an employee is married, single, has kids or elderly parents, everyone has a family, and each family has its own set of needs. Providing suitable work-life arrangements makes it less stressful for employees to care for their family in times of need.
When your team sees that your organisation is genuinely concerned for them beyond their work performance, you’ll earn greater loyalty too.
I believe that a healthy work-life conversation needs to start with what makes the team most dynamic and driven. When people – anyone from the bosses to the rookie – feel that their personal lives are valued as highly as their professional contributions, and there is sincere interest in helping their family life flourish, there will be a stronger sense of camaraderie and unity.
In our home, having flexibility makes a big difference because there are times my wife will need to care for her family of origin, then I’ll be home to look after our son. We can cover each other’s duties. Parenting doesn’t just fall to my wife; we can actively parent together. And when she sees that I am just as committed to parenting as she is, it also makes our marriage stronger.
There is a season for everything, and I’m thankful I can be home when I need to in this season.
Since 2007, Ee Jay has played various roles in the social service sector, such as youth worker, family life educator and counsellor. He is passionate to inspire parents, children and youth with hope as well as equip them practically to thrive in the growing years. Ee Jay is happily married to his wife and they have an adorably handsome son!
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