29 June 2016
The XYZ of Work-life Balance
Gloria Chin

Towards a more sustainable way to work, live and play.

Technology has shifted workplace dynamics such that many employees can now keep in touch with work anywhere and anytime. Within the Singapore Public Service, flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting, part-time employment and no-pay leave have benefitted not just those with children, but also those who care for aged parents or who take part-time studies.

Progressive workplace policies have proven benefits for workers and organisations. Improved engagement levels and retention rates aside, I’ve witnessed many such staff return to full-time work with renewed vigour, a heart of gratitude and a deeper sense of loyalty towards their organisations.  

At a dialogue with Public Service HR middle managers in May, I was asked how I managed my work-life balance as a full-time working mother with three children. This is a topic that’s especially close to my heart. I wish I could say that it was as easy as ABC, but the truth is that it’s as challenging as XYZ!

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Many Asian nations have a reputation for long working hours, and that includes Singapore. How many hours are then left to attend to personal business? Not a lot. So how can one squeeze “xtra” time out of our limited hours?

First, plan each day well. A failure to do so will result in time wasted. I try to plan a week ahead and make adjustments as unexpected things pop up. Second, see time as a precious commodity and assign an appropriate value to it. Finally, prioritise what you want to do and allocate your time accordingly. Don’t be distracted (or at least try not to be). Say you’re on the way to get groceries and you see a fashion sale at the forum. Don’t look! :)

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Who’s the most important person in our lives? It’s you! To care for our loved ones, we must first take care of ourselves physically, emotionally and mentally.

A recent survey showed that Singaporeans sleep the least number of hours compared to other countries. Being well-rested, getting exercise and eating healthily is straightforward enough. Having been a mum for 18 years, I confess that I was laden with guilt in my younger days whenever I spent time on myself. But like Queen Elsa in the movie Frozen, I’ve learnt to “Let it go!”

Investing time in nurturing friendships is important too as it will not only reap long-term returns when our nest empties out, it also provides emotional support in times of need.

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Did you know that each zebra’s stripes are as unique as our fingerprints? I came across this fact many years ago when I was reading to my children. With regard to work-life balance, each of us has our unique circumstances. Talking to others and sharing our personal challenges enables us to pick up tips from others. At times, it actually makes our trials pale in comparison to those of others. CS Lewis once wrote, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’”

Instead of worrying about finding balance, consider that having to juggle these means that we’re gainfully employed. It also signifies that we have loved ones to care for, and who care for us too. As my kids often remind me whenever I’m about to blow my top at them: “Remember, mum, you always say that we bring you a lot of joy!”

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My colleague Katherine shared the above with me. She’s also a mother of two teenagers, and she said that it summed up my advice in this article. I love it; I hope you do too!

Ms Gloria Chin is the Director of the Human Resource Division at the National Environment Agency.

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