Flexible working policies (job sharing, meeting-free Fridays, compressed workweek, etc) are a must – not just for working parents, but across all demographics – giving employees the power to manage their time. Aditi Sharma Kalra puts together a laundry list for employers to consider.
Whether you’re a working parent with toddlers running around or an empty-nester getting used to the peace & quiet at home, whether you’re a parent to a dog, cat or guinea pig, or you’re living solo finding your way around ‘adulting’, the one thing that everyone seems to want (and love) is flexibility.
We at HRO set out to explore HR policies that are best-suited for working parents, and what a wishlist we’ve uncovered! From our conversations with HR leaders across Singapore, Israel, India, and Malaysia, we’ve gathered that organisations are putting their best foot forward in providing flexible working arrangement across all demographics – not just for working parents. So at the end of the day, it really comes down to each one’s personal preference and prioritisation of time in order to be productive amidst possible distractions.
Intrigued? Read on for conversations with nine leaders for their take on HR policies for working parents, or skim through our TL;DR version first and bookmark the article for a later read.
TL;DR: HR policies for working parents
- Flexible working policies (job sharing, meeting-free Fridays, compressed workweek, etc) are a must – not just for working parents, but across all demographics – giving employees the power to manage their time.
- Parental and caregiver leave for birth as well as adoptive parents is a lifesaver, especially in companies that go above and beyond legislative requirements to provide more.
- Specialist support is welcomed by working parents. This could be in the form of a parents’ network to talk about common challenges, complimentary access to apps that help both parents and children, or wellbeing support.
#1 Wellbeing programmes and flexible working hours at Ingredion
Quang Nguyen, HR Director, ASEAN, and Talent, Learning and Organisation Development, Asia-Pacific, Ingredion Singapore, notes that Ingredion runs wellbeing programmes and has put flexible working hours in place since some years now. It is the employees’ onus to manage their work at their own balance. Additionally, split working arrangements (Team A/B working schedule) are currently in place in Singapore per the government’s advice.
#2 Short Fridays, compressed workweek and job sharing at Beam Suntory
Beam Suntory launched its Flexible Working Policy in December 2019, addressing the needs for a diverse workgroup. This policy covers salient features such as flex hours, reduced hours, job sharing, and compressed workweek, subject to manager approval.
It goes on to provide some more innovative measures - such as 'Short Fridays' where employees can leave as early as 2pm on Friday if their standard workweek hours and assignments are completed Monday through Thursday; or the much-loved Beam Suntory Cares days, wherein five days were allotted in 2020, where the whole company globally would close so people could focus on themselves, their family or friends.
Ilja Rijnen, HR Director, EX, Learning & Change International, Beam Suntory, shares: “Through greater flexibility, employees will now have more options to work in ways that support their roles and responsibilities within the business, while balancing their commitments outside of work.”
Specifically for working parents, Beam Suntory has rolled out an enhanced global parental leave benefit applicable on the birth or adoption of a child. Primary caregivers are now eligible for 26 weeks of paid leave, doubling the previous benefit offering. Further, secondary caregivers receive up to four weeks of paid leave globally. Such policies are driven by the motto of ensuring employees always receive the maximum statutory benefit.
#3 Specialist support and meeting other parents to address parental challenges at Hibob
Parents working at Hibob get access to a unique platform where they can hear lectures on relevant parental challenges and how to address them, set time with specialists for advice on managing parenting right now, and connect with other parents to discuss best practices. All employees also benefit from access to the app Headspace to help them recharge their energy and maintain positive mental health.
Nirit Peled-Muntz, CHRO, Hibob, says: “Real work-life balance is something that we consistently need to keep working on. HR leaders need to continue to strive for balance on a daily basis in order to avoid burnt-out staff, retain talent, and ultimately create happy and satisfied employees.”
She urges those dealing with stress related to work or burnout to eat well, exercise, sleep and make time for your loved ones; try to disconnect over the weekend; and use your allotted vacation days to take some time to decompress. As she strives to be a role model for her team, she adds: “It’s not always easy to achieve it all, but we should all be taking steps to better our work life balance and mental health - especially throughout a global pandemic.”
#4 Family-friendly policies to suit employee demographics, company DNA, and affordability
Admitting that the world will never be the same again, Kiran Yadav, Chief People Officer, Canara HSBC OBC Life Insurance, says its imperative we learn and implement some lessons. “Employers need to evaluate family-friendly policies depending on their employees’ demographics, alignment to the company DNA, and affordability,” she explains.
“At a very broad level, flexibility is the core of how more can be achieved at home and work without compromising on health and sanity.”
#5 Empathy and humanness drive inclusive practices at Ericsson
At Ericsson, diversity & inclusion is considered fundamental to innovation and business performance, company culture, and core values. In addition, demonstrating empathy and humanness is one of the core cultural focus areas. Over the past year, more than 95% of its people leaders have taken part in virtual workshops about Ericsson’s cultural practices, demonstrating commitment to having holistic conversations with team members about their personal situations, needs and priorities.
With inclusivity at its core, working parents at Ericsson benefit from flexible working policies, part-time working, parental leave (for both working fathers and mothers), as well as job share policies. Urvi Jobalia, Head - Inclusion, Diversity and Talent Acquisition, SEA Oceania and India, Ericsson, shares: “We have also established an employee assistance programme in Southeast Asia, giving our employees access to professional counsellors in confidence. With the help of regular pulse surveys, we are able to check-in on our colleagues, taking note of areas where they need more support.”
Such initiatives have led Ericsson to be recognised as a Great Place to work across 13 countries in SEA and Best Workplace for Women in India.“We are committed to creating an inclusive working environment, conducive for a diverse group of employees locally, regionally and also globally,” affirms Urvi.
She goes on to share why putting words and actions into ideas is key to creating work life balance. “Role modelling work-life balance, as well as demonstrating empathy and kindness sets the tone and culture in an organisation. Creating balance for self without fear of judgement is essential to creating an inclusive environment.”
She encourages the following conscious steps for leaders to take in this space:
- Encourage team members to take time-off, even if not travelling. Overworked brains are not the most efficient.
- Acknowledge that everyone has different needs and priorities.
- Meeting-free Fridays give time to wrap up the week well and allow for more flexibility.
#6 A compressed workweek might be the answer to working parents’ longer hours at home
In the view of Aice Ching, Head of HR, Mundipharma Pharmaceuticals, a compressed work week for four days may be the most beneficial HR policy for working parents.
She explains: “It may not seem like it, but working from home means longer hours compared to the office for parents. Breaks are shorter as there’s always something which needs doing on the home front and the kids will still need constant attention throughout the day – a lot of us need to work longer hours after putting the kids to sleep just to catch up.”
Thus, she urges employers to find ways to provide parents with an extra day off, which pays off in the long run as this downtime allows parents to recharge and spend quality time with the kids and come back to work with more energy and motivation.
#7 Special check-ins with parents, rider service and time-off to check on classes at KMU
Whether parents of small children are working from home or office, they are being taken care of by KMU’s HR team. For those working in office, they can avail of initiatives such as:
- Flexible working hours/schedules– Reshuffling the standard working hours and/or working in staggered teams.
- Time-off – To buy lunch, check on children’s online class, sending children to parents-in-law's house, and more.
- Special support arrangement – Checking in with moms and dads by asking how they need help and offering realistic solutions.
For parents working from home, the following policies are available:
- Planned meeting schedule - Short or pre-recorded meetings, not at odd hours.
- Necessary equipment to support work – Printer, scanner, A4 paper, and Wifi allowance.
- Rider service - Company dispatches riders on a daily basis to collect and deliver documents from employees’ home.
- Webinar sessions - Relating to stress management, time management, personal development, as well as dialogue sessions between management team and employees.
Dr Loo Leap Han, Head of Group HR and Administration, KMU Eiscon Holding, admits that striking a healthy work-life balance is a difficult challenge during this time. “Adding to the pressure, today's portable electronic devices have ‘integrated’ the line between work and home. Employees are available 24/7 to their boss, supervisors, coworkers, and customers around the clock,” he adds.
As a result, he shares some of his personal tips to maintain a semblance of balance:
- Determine your list of priorities – What do I need to start doing? Stop doing? Continue doing? Do more of? Do less of? Do differently?
- Establish your professional and personal boundaries – Commit to not working late or on weekends.
- Learn to say ‘no’ politely – Have the self-respect, confidence and courage to live life on your own terms and say yes only to the things that really matter to you.
- Do the things you enjoy the most every day – Do the things that give you the most pleasure, or you are most passionate about, such as your hobbies.
- Stay active – Regular exercise reduces stress, depression and anxiety. Eat right. Don’t rely on drugs, alcohol or cigarettes to cope with stress and anger.
#8 Enhanced parental leave, BumoBrain membership and more at American Express
American Express provides holistic benefits to ensure our colleagues can thrive personally and professionally. These include:
- Enhanced parental leave:
- Four months of maternity leave
- Five days of paternity and adoption leave.
- Enhanced maternity re-imbursement coverage.
- Six days of flexi leave annually that can also be used to extend parental leaves or for family emergencies.
- Free three-month membership to BumoBrain. Online portal offering age-specific curriculums, learning videos, and unplugged activities to encourage critical thinking, exploration, creativity, and motor skills development for students aged two to six years.
- Outpatient coverage inclusive of spouse and children at no additional cost while also providing the flexibility to enhance the coverage limit or to enrol dependents for hospitalisation coverage.
- Flexible benefits programme in which flexi points equivalent to Malaysian Ringgit are credited each year to be availed for reimbursements such as childcare expenses, personal vacation, children education fees, elder care and many more.
- Telehealth coverage for all colleagues and dependents at no additional cost to consult doctors in the comfort of their home, 24 hours a day/7 days a week.
- Year-round campaigns with virtual workouts, yoga sessions, meditation & mental wellbeing webinars.
Anjum Ghaffar, Director Human Resources, Market Head, American Express Malaysia adds: “One tip to maintaining work life balance is you dedicate time in your day where you completely switch off from work. This should be done with discipline.”
#9 Why it’s so important to prioritise time with your loved ones
Rotiboy Bakeshoppe truly supports work-from-home initiatives and minimal individuals are staggered at work at any point in time. “Safety is our priority. Through this initiative, we provide them flexibility in managing their time,” affirms David Andrew Jansen, Head People & Culture, Rotiboy Bakeshoppe.
On the personal front, pre COVID-19, Jansen was a strong believer in work-life balance, i.e. logging off on time, no working at night or messaging his team after hours or weekends. However, he admits the pandemic has turned his work-life balance principles upside down. "I have not gone through a pandemic before this but experiencing it now, makes me learn and grow beyond the normal work that I’m used to.”
So how does he tackle this phenomenon? “It is important to prioritise. What can wait will wait! Have a good work-life balance as someone once told me, a company can replace you and your position anytime, but you cannot replace your life and your time with loved ones.”
Photos / Provided (interviewees featured above, top row L-R: Nirit, Urvi, Aice, Dr Loo; bottom row L-R: Anjum, David, Ilja, Kiran)