SINGAPORE: Despite operating in the post-Covid-19 era and the easing of pandemic-induced remote work mandates, more businesses are recognizing the importance of providing flexibility to their employees and are reshaping their work culture by embracing flexible work-from-home (WFH) measures to attract and retain talent.

One traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) company has not only adopted flexible work arrangements but has also deliberately cultivated a family-friendly working environment. Speaking to Lianhe Zaobao, the company revealed that these measures are aimed at attracting and retaining working parents and employees with caregiving responsibilities, a crucial move in a field facing a manpower shortage in their industry.

The company, boasting a team of 60 employees, including 18 TCM practitioners, stands out by implementing a five-day work system—a rarity among its peers. Frontline employees are granted the liberty to choose their rest days, and the company adjusts schedules every three to four months based on their preferences.

For marketing and business development roles, employees enjoy the flexibility of working fully from home, complete with adjustable working hours. All employees can also opt for a compressed work week, condensing the standard work week into fewer days.

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A key aspect of the company’s approach is the implementation of pro-family policies. This includes a double shift system in designated clinics, allowing TCM practitioners to work morning shifts, enabling them to pick up their children from school in the evening.

The impact of these flexible working systems is evident in the company’s remarkable growth—revenue has surged more than tenfold in the past four years, and the employee count has surged from eight to 60. At least 15 per cent of the company’s female TCM practitioners, who initially contemplated leaving the workforce to care for their children, also decided to stay on thanks to the new measures.

The Chinese daily reported that other companies are exploring similar family-friendly measures, including extended paternity leave, paid eldercare leave, and enhanced health benefits. The upcoming introduction of government policy guidelines for flexible working arrangements in the following year is anticipated to provide a framework that delineates norms and requirements for both employees and employers, promoting responsible and fair use of flexible working arrangements.

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James Brasher, Managing Partner of public relations consulting firm RICE, told Lianhe Zaobao that the pandemic has accentuated the challenges of balancing work and family life and that the impending policy guidelines will encourage employers to prioritize employee well-being and organize work with greater compassion.

RICE has been at the forefront of implementing innovative work arrangements. Since last year, the company has permitted employees to take vacations and work abroad for up to six weeks. Mr Brasher noted that this scheme has been well-received, with employees appreciating the flexibility to choose their destination and decide the number of work and vacation days, provided it doesn’t compromise their responsibilities.

RICE has also advocated for a hybrid office model, encouraging employees to work from the office two days a week. A recent survey conducted by the company indicated that nearly 80 per cent of employees favor this hybrid model, highlighting the popularity of flexible work arrangements.

Mr Brasher stressed the importance of effective communication and accountability between employers and employees for flexible working arrangements to succeed. Looking ahead, RICE plans to introduce four weeks of paid paternity leave for working fathers in the coming year and aims to review and enhance maternity leave, paternity leave, and parental leave benefits to better support employees.

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In parallel efforts to support working fathers, the non-profit Center for Fathering plans to collaborate with businesses over the next year. Their initiatives include enlightening employees and management about the vital role of fathers through lectures and workshops, encouraging companies to partake in pro-family activities, and assisting working fathers in establishing support groups within their organizations.

The center also will collaborate with obstetrics and gynecology hospitals to provide activities for new fathers, challenge societal perceptions about fathers’ roles through public awareness campaigns, and equip them with essential parenting skills.

As companies recognize the importance of work-life balance and family support, the evolving landscape of flexible work arrangements is poised to redefine the traditional workplace, fostering a culture that prioritizes the well-being and diverse needs of employees.