Creating family-first polices that benefit working parents

Managers and leaders need to drive the implementation of family-friendly policies that advance the work-life integration agenda.
By: | August 24, 2023

To build a family-friend work culture to recruit and retain talent, organisations are rolling out policies and programmes that help fathers and mothers do well both at home and in their job roles. These family-first initiatives include flexible work arrangements and family-bonding activities. One such activity? Adopting the nationwide Eat With Your Family Day (EWYFD), launched by Centre for Fathering in 2003 to encourage organisations to release employees from work early so that they can eat with their families on the last Friday of every school term.

Speaking to HRM Asia, Alvina Chin, Family Life Educator at MUMs for Life – a movement helmed by Centre for Fathering and dedicated to celebrating the identity of mothers in their various roles – shared that family-friendly policies were a demonstration of an organisation’s sense of corporate responsibility. The extent of policies that push families at the forefront can affect employee behaviour, such as raising productivity, reducing absenteeism, and increasing employee retention, she shared. It also increased likelihood of mothers returning to work after maternity leave, she said.

As the needs of the employees and their family commitments continue to evolve over time, and an increasing reception to hybrid work arrangements, organisations should review existing work policies and change them to accommodate these requests. These include flexible scheduling options, where employees are given the autonomy to adjust their start and end times to accommodate family needs such as picking up children during school-end times. Other options, as Alvina supplied, can include reducing work hours during school holidays, include offering working parents remote work options, additional paid family days off, and organising family events and activities.   

This is supported by companies like Kim Choo Kueh Chang, a letter of commendation recipient of Great Companies for Dads Awards in 2021. “Embracing a holistic approach to work-life balance, we not only champion flexible work arrangements but also cultivate an inclusive environment where every member feels encouraged to uphold their roles as dedicated professionals and devoted family members,” said Edmond Wong, BPM, and third-generation owner of Kim Choo Kueh Chang.

Melisa Wong, Executive Director at Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support, a charity dedicated to supporting pregnant teens in need and a partner of MUMs for Life, agrees that creating a family-friendly environment means meeting the specific needs of parents, and in the case of new mothers, provide comprehensive support with a dedicated breastfeeding room with appropriate amenities, ensuring privacy and comfort even at work. “There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, so open and honest communication would help us ensure that everyone’s specific needs are met,” Melisa explained.  

The flow of communication and honesty, however, can only be set by the leaders of any organisation pushing forth the agenda to shape the work culture within an organisation. “Leaders set the tone and shape the work culture within an organisation,” said Alvina, adding that they were essential in facilitating the mind shift and creating accepting work cultures that offer meaningful support for working parents. Melisa is also conscious of this, sharing that she sets an example by working from home if her own children were not feeling well, setting an example for staff at Babes to use the flexibility given at Babes for staff to provide the necessary care and support while still contributing effectively to their roles. “By leading by example and promoting these practices, we aspire to create a work environment where our team members feel valued, supported, and empowered to prioritise their families without compromising on their careers,” Melisa explained.

Organisational leaders in Babes and Kim Choo Kueh Chang have implemented and practised initiatives such as EWYFD to push forth a more family-centric work culture.  Both organisations have, in the past, participated in the endeavour, all with great results. “This event has provided a wonderful platform for our staff members to engage in meaningful activities with their families every quarter,” said Melisa. Babes has been a participant of EWYFD since 2022.

“Through meaningful initiatives like EWYFD, and a comprehensive support system, the management team takes the lead in inspiring a culture where the integration of work and family life fosters not only success within our organisation, but the overall well-being and happiness of each individual and their loved ones,” said Edmond.

READ MORE: From diapers to desk: Supporting fatherhood in the workplace

Alvina added that EWYFD has been popular amongst more than 600 organisations that participate annually. “Since its launch, response has only gotten more positive over the years,” she said. “A growing number of families also realise that frequent family dinners can result in fewer emotional and behavioural problems and enhance emotional well-being. Other benefits include stress reduction and better connection with other people.”