Small company Providend is big on flexi-work arrangements

Finance executive Moon Shary considered resigning two years ago or working part-time so she could help her daughter prepare for the Primary School Leaving Examination, but the option of flexible work enabled her to carry on with her career.

Madam Shary, chief operating officer at financial advisory firm Providend, now works from home after going to the office from 8am to 1pm.

She supervises her daughters as they do homework. The two girls - aged nine and 13 - remain at home instead of going to student care.

"There are challenges, like managing my relationship with team members, because in the afternoons I can give guidance only over the phone. But it's a good arrangement because I can still contribute to the company," said Madam Shary, 43.

Providend chief executive Christopher Tan said Madam Shary, who joined the firm 11 years ago, was promoted from finance manager to her current post two years ago - a sign that staff are not penalised for choosing flexi-work.

"We wouldn't want to lose her and have to hire a new chief operating officer and have to explain the whole company to them again. For SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), it's hard to compete with multinationals for manpower, so it's very important for us to retain talent," he said.

Mr Tan founded the firm in 2001 and has always provided staff with flexibility, but it was only this year that flexi-work arrangements were formalised in the company's policy.

 
 

About half of Providend's 20 full-time permanent staff are using either flexi-time, which means staggered working hours, or flexi-place. This involves working off-site, an option they can take up twice a month.

Last year, the company hired a consultant through the Government's Work-Life Grant to help plan the schemes. After a pilot run, employees said it was hard to get work done efficiently when colleagues disappeared for flexi-place arrangements. They now choose regular days each month to work off-site.

Client adviser Loh Yong Cheng, 33, works from home twice a month. He uses the two hours of travelling time saved each day to look after his baby daughter or run errands.

His previous employer had given him some flexibility to choose his work location, but the arrangement was not formalised. "It largely came down to how open my manager at that point of time was towards such work-life practices," he said.