​​​ Step 2: Assess business needs and employees’ work‐life needs

Organisations should be clear about what their business needs are. Business needs may include corporate values, objectives and/or operational standards. These may be further categorised into various functional and business units according to the nature of industry and/work.

For instance, if a business revolves around customer-facing services (e.g. in a retail outlet), it may be possible to implement staggered time with some creative scheduling, but it would be challenging to implement telecommuting. On the other hand, if there is a need for 24-hour operations (e.g. in a hospital), rotating 12-hour shifts with more days off would be more suitable compared to staggered time. Organisations with a good understanding of their own business needs and processes will be better able to customise a successful work-life strategy.

Different organisations have diverse employee profiles with varied needs. An organisation's employee profile and needs also change over time, hence its work-life strategy needs to be regularly reviewed in order to remain relevant. This may be done through an annual review. 

There are various ways to find out what employees grapple with in managing work commitments alongside personal and family needs. The three common methods include workforce profiling, employee surveys and focus groups. They are often used to complement one another.

1.  Workforce profiling

Workforce profiling refers to mining information within an organisation, especially its existing employee records. It provides organisations with an indication of the areas of priority for work-life programmes and can yield information on trends and changes which could be used to adjust work-life programmes. Some questions may include:
  • How many employees are/have

    • near retirement?

    • young parents?

    • parents of more than one child?

    • single parents?

    • elderly parents?

    • dependants with healthcare needs?

    • men or women?

    • married or single?

    • pursuing further education?

  • Which part of the business has greatest difficulty recruiting employees? What could be the reasons?

  • What are the existing health problems and costs?

  • What is the absenteeism rate?

  • How much medical leave is being consumed?

2.  Employee surveys

Employee surveys reveal attitudinal information that may be used to gauge employee sentiments. Tracked regularly, this can provide information on employee sentiments that may signal deeper concerns in at the workplace. Some areas to survey may include:

  • Issues related to job scope and responsibilities – this may be indicative of employee stress levels and demonstrate a need for greater work flexibility options

  • Non-work commitments and aspirations, e.g. the number of dependents, plans to attain higher education – this can provide information about which work-life programmes to prioritise

  • A list of existing/upcoming work-life programmes – this can provide information about which programmes are or will be popular.

  • Job satisfaction/motivation/engagement/work-life harmony levels.

3.  Focus groups

A focus group is an organised group discussion led by a moderator that typically involves interviews with about 6 – 10 people at the same time. Compared to surveys, focus groups give more insights into the views, attitudes and motivations of a selected group of individuals as they provide more open-ended responses. They allow moderators to delve more deeply into a topic (e.g. views and experiences on a particular work-life programme) to elicit and understand different qualitative views. The moderator plays a very important role in eliciting useful information and steering the group towards a productive discussion.