Change Starts From the Top Part I: Flexible Work Arrangements Require Trust

According to The Straits Times, “The Government is reviewing policies to encourage Singaporeans to marry and have babies as Singapore’s total fertility rate has fallen to 1.2 children per woman of childbearing age, far below the replacement rate of 2.1”

“The National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) has come up with suggestions to nudge reluctant Singaporeans to have more babies,” The Straits Times report.

It was also reported that, “More companies may be offering flexible work hour arrangements, but it will take a mindset change from employers to ensure it becomes a widely acceptable practice.”

NTUC assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong was reported as saying that, “achieving (flexible work arrangements) could go a long way in encouraging working women to have babies.”

I would like to focus, in this article, on the issue of trust.

Trust is the Key Factor of Success for Flexible Work Arrangements

In a paper, published by the MIT workplace Center, which explores how successful organisations manage flexible work arrangements, it was said that the first principle to make flexible work arrangements is “trust” because:

When trust is present an important change takes place, it takes away the suspicion.

The paper also discussed that,

Managers and employees must change the  way they think by first unlearning the old ways and then learning new ones. This learning is uncomfortable and produces anxiety that can battle against the internalization of the new schemas.

In a “global research report amongst businesses assessing take up and attitudes towards flexible working” by Regus, it was found that, “An important trust issue is also raised by this research report. The findings reveal that, although 59% of businesses allow some level of flexibility to workers regardless of their seniority, age or service record, 40% declare that only senior staff are trusted enough to benefit from this privilege. This form of selection automatically excludes many of the employees that would benefit from a more family friendly work environment such as young families and junior talent that businesses may have gone to great lengths to attract.”

The report recommends that:

By overcoming trust issues and introducing flexible working practices businesses can in fact reduce or contain expensive overheads and improve employee retention and motivation.

In a study by the Ministry of Manpower that discusses successful flexi-work arrangements, it concluded that, “Flexibility works best if there is a high degree of trust between employers and employees.”

In the Corporate Guidelines published by Nestle on how to “provide a framework for managers and employees who want to explore working flexibly,”Jean-Marc Duvoisin, Deputy Executive Vice President of Human Resources and Centre Administration, had said that:

(Flexible work arrangements) requires a culture shift where people are trusted to work with less monitoring and supervision – the end of “command and control” micro management. It is a journey where managers play a key role in supporting change.

“Creating a culture of trust” is crucial because, “Trust between the organization and the employee is vital for performance management by results, and is a key requirement for flexible work arrangements.” Also, “empowering employees and maximizing their engagement is recognized as vital to driving continuous improvements in productivity. That can be difficult where trust is low. But low levels of trust often go with low levels of employee engagement, created because of low motivation. Providing greater flexibility has been shown to generate higher levels of motivation, which in turn builds engagement and creates the environment in which flexibility can thrive.”

The document further highlights that, “Building trust is a bilateral process that requires mutual efforts and commitment.” The document further emphasised that:

Trust others and you will receive trust in return. There are simple and symbolic actions you can take that show trust, such as soliciting input and sharing decision making power with others.

Thus for flexible work arrangements to work, as well as for other policies to favour working parents in Singapore, to be able to perform the dual role of a worker and a parent, it has been shown that trust is the key component within a company to ensure that these policies, such as flexible work arrangements, will be implemented effectively and successfully in Singapore. 

In the next part of the article, I would like to discuss the trust between Singaporeans and our government, and how our government’s trust in Singaporeans, I would argue, is of pertinent importance as to whether companies will ‘follow the lead’ to implement effective family-friendly policies in Singapore. 

One comment


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