SINGAPORE: When Ms Rashidah Mohamed Sadik noticed that her daughter was struggling with her studies nearly two years ago, she contemplated quitting her job so she could spend more time with her eldest child.
Thankfully, her company Ernst and Young (EY) offered a form of flexible work arrangement called job sharing, which allowed her to work three days a week.
Ms Rashidah decided to give it a shot for six months. While her pay and benefits were pro-rated accordingly, the flexible work option turned out to be what she needed.
"My children looked forward to my off days. They no longer needed to wait for me to come back home. They used to have to fight to see who could tell me their stories first," said the 43-year-old.
Not only was she able to tutor her daughter, whose grades improved within four months, Ms Rashidah also got to spend more time with her mother and accompany her on medical check-ups.
With support from her supervisors, she decided to continue with the job sharing arrangement for another year.
“This arrangement really worked for me (and) my family,” said Ms Rashidah, who returned to full-time work at the start of 2019.
Another EY employee, Ms Tanya Sng, also shared how she benefited from the job sharing option, when she was going through a difficult time in 2010.
Ms Sng had found out that her parents were diagnosed with terminal illnesses. She also considered quitting her job, but eventually took up job sharing and worked for two-and-a-half days a week.
“It gave me a lot more time to spend with my parents,” said Ms Sng, who is an assistant director in EY’s finance department. “I managed to take them to medical appointments and create certain memories together.”
During the two years where she was offered more flexibility at work, Ms Sng also got to bond with her child.
“As a result, I was in a better place emotionally," she said.
EY is among the few companies in Singapore that offer job sharing, an arrangement in which two or more people share the responsibilities of a full-time job, according to Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Low Yen Ling during a visit to the professional services firm on Friday (May 24).
While this form of flexible work has grown in popularity overseas, it remains in the nascent stage here, with only 2 per cent of companies offering it, she said.
To raise awareness and help more companies adopt this form of flexible work arrangement, the Manpower Ministry and Singapore National Employers Federation have put out an implementation guide which recommends steps that businesses can take, including identifying shareable jobs, communicating such arrangements to supervisors, job sharing employees and their co-workers, as well as organising regular feedback sessions.
The 24-page guide also includes a sample addendum for employment contracts, as well as success case studies.
Speaking during the launch of the guide on Friday, Ms Low said research has shown that job sharing can increase employee productivity by up to 30 per cent and help cut hiring costs for companies by about 20 per cent. It can also help businesses to widen their talent pool.
“Companies that choose to make such an investment in their people will really benefit from it,” she told reporters. “The launch of the guide is to extend the options of FWAs (flexi-work arrangements) and we hope more companies will step up and roll out FWAs, including job sharing.”
Overall, work options that offer workers flexibility will grow in importance amid Singapore’s ageing society and as more young parents have to shoulder caregiving for both their ageing parents and growing children, she added.
Alternate work arrangements will also be sought out by millennials who value work-life balance, as well as older workers who wish to slow down their pace of work.
“Flexible work arrangements, like job-sharing, can create an enabling environment to empower employees to achieve and balance their family goals,” said Ms Low.
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It is also a boon for employers, she added.
“Many bosses think of it as something that really just benefits employees. Actually, (FWAs are) a win-win for both employers and employees.
“With our tight labour market and ageing workforce, workplaces that are progressive and inclusive will have the competitive edge to recruit and retain a wider pool of talent," Ms Low said.
She also said that businesses can tap on the Work-Life Grant, which recently got a boost in funding.
This provides up to S$2,000 per year for each regular user of flexi-work arrangements, capped at S$70,000 for a company over two years.
Firms can also claim up to S$3,500 a user for job sharing arrangements for professionals, managers, executives and technicians. This is capped at S$35,000 over two years.
At EY, having flexible work arrangements in place have helped to boost employee engagement, retention rates and motivation levels.
It has also helped to bring down hiring costs, said its managing partner for ASEAN and Singapore, Mr Max Loh.
“(Hiring costs) involve the training of new people so if you are able to retain high-potential and high-performing people, costs will definitely come down," he said.
At the moment, nearly four in five employees at EY are on flexible work arrangements, with the most common arrangements being staggered work hours and telecommuting. Just about 2 per cent of those who opted for flexible work are on job sharing, Mr Loh told CNA.
With the launch of the guide, Mr Loh said the company will be studying other success cases so as to “push job sharing more extensively”.