Millennials and work-life balance in Singapore: Is it an impossible dream?


Work-life balance and flexible work are the two buzzwords on everyone’s lips in recent years.

In Singapore, there is even a Tripartite Committee on Work-Life Strategy which advises employers on the flexible working options they can offer employees.

Despite these measures and guidelines, a study has found that many people who are offered flexible working arrangements do not even take them up because they fear being judged for it.

Nonetheless, flexible work arrangements are a very common prerequisite among returning/working mums and millennials in Singapore, Richa Sharma, manager at Page Personnel Singapore says.

The two groups have very different reasons for wanting such benefits. The former does not want to choose between family and career, while millennials want it “because they perceive things very differently from the previous generation. Their ideas of where and how work gets done is the core difference,” she explains.

It’s obvious that for the millennial population, the relationship between the concepts of work and life is no longer mutually exclusive. “Sacrificing one for the other is not the common trend anymore and therefore a lot of (millennials) tend to leave within the two-year mark,”, Ms Sharma tells Business Insider in an email interview.

While many companies have introduced flexible working arrangements, the trend is still being adopted “initially and almost only exclusively within blue chip, IT and the E-commerce companies,” Ms Sharma says.

Many firms have been trying to include flexibility in their working culture, but Ms Sharma says a lot of them are still “playing catch up”.

The good thing is that Singapore is no longer stuck in the grey area where asking for flexible work options is seen as a weakness or taboo.

In fact, more local companies are starting to change their policies to include flexibility as a way to retain talent. “The support is growing and companies are slowing re-educating themselves and getting more and more behind the notion,” adding that companies here are more receptive to the idea than they were five years ago.

For millennial professionals, “it is important for them to feel that their work goals is aligned with their personal goals,” Ms Sharma says. As a result, sacrificing one for the other is not “the common trend anymore” and therefore many millennials tend to leave their jobs after the two-year mark.

Instead of bosses, millennials want coaches or mentors, and are looking for good office dynamics and flexibility rather than company culture and a conventional desk job.

The evolution may seem slow, but companies are definitely evolving because the millennial generation is expected to be a huge part of the workforce by the end of 2017, she says.

It is important to remember that the idea of flexi-work seems to still be in its early stages in Singapore.

So is it actually possible for millennials in Singapore to achieve this elusive ideal of a work-life balance? It is, if you know what kind of flexibility you want.

A lot of times, job seekers might not even actually understand that the kind of flexibility each company offers could be different from what they are looking for.

“The relaxed economic output might be sending mixed signals however times are changing and during this period it would be best to define what flexibility means to you,” Ms Sharma says.