​​​Step 3: Implement work‐life programmes

Design work-life programmes

Work-life programmes fall into 3 broad categories:

1.  Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs)

A successful FWA takes into account various factors such as the organisation's needs, employees' job functions and personality profiles. Typically, immediate supervisors would be in the best position to determine the suitability of the arrangement.

Amongst the various work-life programmes, FWAs have the most impact on an organisation as they shape the day-to-day operations and the daily routines of its employees. Organisations can often reap benefits from a well-implemented FWA, such as reducing costs and ramping up efficiency and productivity.

Before embarking on any FWA, it would be useful for employees to conduct a self-assessment and study the pros and cons of the request. They should also consider which FWAs are appropriate given the requirements and/or limitations of their specific job duties and responsibilities.

2. Leave Schemes

Leave schemes refer to those over and above statutory requirements (i.e. annual leave, childcare leave, maternity leave and sick leave). Such leave may be (i) paid or unpaid, and (ii) subsumed under the annual allotment of leave schemes.

3. Employee Support Schemes (ESS)

ESS help employees manage the non-work aspects of their lives, especially the 'time stress' faced by many. These programmes may involve the innovative use of existing organisation resources, simple gestures of appreciation for employees and their families, dependent care support, health and wellness programmes, flexible benefits and time-saving services.

Such schemes need not be costly. For example, companies already providing a particular business service could extend it to their employees at marginal cost. Some examples include transportation, laundry and childcare services. The benefits enjoyed by the employees can in turn bring about greater motivation and engagement in their work. 

Develop a communication plan

The successful implementation of work-life programmes hinges on effective communication of these programmes to employees. Studies have shown that awareness of work-life programmes is as important as utilisation of them when it comes to improving employee engagement and turnover.

A variety of communication channels may be used according to the norms of each organisation, and effectiveness of the channels. Some common modes of communication include town hall/team meetings, emails, intranet, message boards, memos, department lunches, etc.

In addition to creating awareness on work-life programmes, communication channels can also serve to:

  • Sustain a work-life culture, e.g. posters and placards of an organisation's work-life values adorning corridors, pantries and meeting rooms as constant reminders
  • Transmit an organisation's work-life values, e.g. handbooks on corporate values and organisation's work-life programmes could be given to all new employees
  • Improve and invigorate an organisation's work-life strategy, e.g. feedback channel(s) used to evaluate existing work-life programmes or to monitor changing work-life needs

Some considerations for an effective communications plan include:

  • Define objectives (short-term, e.g. introducing a specific work-life programme, and long-term, e.g. developing a culture of flexibility) 
  • Identify target audience, including segments that might resist the new programme, in order to:
    • ​customise strategy for buy-in 
    • identify key message for each segment of the target audience
    • anticipate audience's concerns and responses
    • prime audience for new programme
    • educate and train middle managers
    • explain benefits of new programme 
  • Select channels for communicating and promoting the new programme
  • Build in a feedback mechanism to review the communications plan
  • Measure effectiveness of communications plan

Visible senior management support

Strong support from the senior management for an organisation's work-life strategy is crucial. Supervisors and employees of all levels will then feel more comfortable in supporting, participating and utilising work-life programmes. This would increase the success rate of the organisation's work-life strategy.

Clear policies and guidelines

Work-life programmes need to be supported by clear policies and guidelines that address the values, eligibility criteria and operational details of the programmes. As a rough guide, policies and guidelines for work-life programmes should:

  • Stress mutual benefits to both the organisation and its employees
  • Encourage an approach of mutual trust and accountability in developing and implementing work-life programmes
  • Value employees for their contribution to the business, not their choice of work arrangement
  • Include an objective, outcome-based monitoring and evaluation mechanism