When Singaporeans graduate from school, they tend to get busy with other aspects of their lives outside of work. Whether is it starting a family, pursuing a new hobby or travelling the world, they will want their employers to help them strike a balance between life and work.
This is why we are seeing more companies provide flexible work options to their staff, so that they can choose to work at a time and location that best fit their lifestyles.
There are three main types of flexible work arrangement:
- Telecommuting or remote working
Employees have the flexibility to work at a location outside of the office that is more convenient and productive for them.
- Adjusted work hours
Instead of the typical 9 to 5, employees can choose to start and end earlier or later depending on their lifestyle needs.
- Compressed work week
The work week is reduced from five days to four or less, but employees are required to work longer for each day to fulfil the minimum working hours required by the company.
Besides the flexibility and convenience, a recent study by Randstad found that 87% of Singapore’s workforce favour agile working as it can drive innovation, increase productivity and improve job satisfaction.
Despite all these benefits, the same study found that 55% of employees in Singapore believe that the agile working interferes with their personal life. This is mainly because people are not entirely sure about how and when they should disconnect from work.
Furthermore, company-issued digital devices have only further blurred the lines between work and personal, as people feel that they need to check their emails all the time – even during the weekends.
How can agile working help you achieve work-life balance?
Digital devices should not cause any unnecessary stress and employers who entrust their staff with agile working should respect their agreed working hours.
Besides mutual agreement, here are three ways that can help you truly benefit from agile working.
1. Be transparent
When our colleagues tell us that they are working from home, doubts tend to surface. Just because we can’t see them in the office does not necessarily mean that they are not doing any work.
If you choose to work from home or outside of your regular working hours, make sure that your co-workers know when you are working, what you are working on and where you are at. Not only does it help clear any doubts they may have, they will also know when will be a right time to schedule a meeting or connect with you.
You can also send your team your to-do list before your day starts so that they know what you will be busy with and at times, they can even help you prioritise your work. You can also share your calendar with your co-workers and make sure that it is updated regularly, so that they can check when you are in meetings or available for a quick call.
2. Constant communication
When in the office, we can simply walk up to our colleagues for a quick chat if we have any questions. However, we may find it more challenging to reach colleagues who have flexible work schedules.
Companies have started to invest in and leverage technology to empower anyone to work anytime, from anywhere. Tools such as web messaging, video conferencing and project management software enable employees to connect with each other quickly, collaborate on key projects or see real-time updates – regardless of where they are based.
The success of flexible working arrangements hinges on trust and transparency. It is hence critical for co-workers to communicate regularly and update each other of what they are working on to avoid duplications and misalignments. Open and regular communications not only help set the right level of expectations in terms of accountability but also have an impact on productivity and efficiency.
3. Learn when to switch off
In this post-digital age where technology has become an everyday component in our lives, we will not be completely unplugged from work no matter where we are. We all have this unnerving need to check our emails or answer the phone as soon as it rings. This totally goes against the grain of flexible working arrangements – which are typically designed to help you achieve a better balance better work and personal life, instead of hurtling you towards a burnout. It is therefore important to know when to switch off and learn to fit your work around life (not your life around work).
The first thing you need to do is switch on the ‘do-not-disturb’ function on your phones during the weekends. If you are going out on the weekends, leave your work laptops and phones at home. Inform your colleagues that you will not have access to your inbox or messages and only to call if it is an urgent issue.
If you are connected to your company’s email and web messaging app on your personal phone, you can choose to switch off notifications for the weekends. You can always turn it back on when Monday starts.
If your boss needs you to work over the weekend or outside of your normal working hours, make sure that it has been communicated to you beforehand so that you can prepare yourself to get in the right mindset to work.
Companies and employees can only reap the benefits from agile working policies when there is mutual trust. If you want to take advantage of agile working options, you need to first make sure that you demonstrate that you are responsible, dependable and accountable. Only when you have earned the trust of your management team and colleagues to operate independently, will you be able to benefit from agile working and see positive outcomes – both on the personal and professional fronts.