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In a recent study of 40 cities, Singapore was ranked the second most overworked city.

Three couples share their thoughts on how an overworked city can achieve work-life balance.


Sabrina (29) and Hendra (29): Married for 1.5 years and expecting their first child in February 2020

Natasha (31) and Fariq (31): Married for 5 years and parents to Aliya (4)

Estee (30) and Julian (32): Married for 3 years and parents of twins, Jace and Joe (7 months old)


What are your working hours like?

Sabrina: I’m working regular office hours with a 40 hours work week. My husband works either morning or night shift, for as long as 12 hours a day and more than 40 hours a week.

Natasha: I work weekdays from 8am to 5.30pm while my husband does shift work.

Julian: My wife and I both work 40 hours a week.


What does “work-life balance” mean to you and, on a scale of 1 to 10, how important is it to you?

Sabrina & Hendra: We would give it an 8 out of 10. As much as it’s important to have a fulfilling career, being able to spend time with each other at the end of the day is definitely top priority.

Natasha & Fariq: 10! To be able to knock off from work on time and be able to spend quality time with your family – even something as simple as having dinner together – without being distracted by work calls and messages after working hours.

Estee & Julian: Definitely a 10, it’s very important to us. That means no or minimal OT (overtime) so we can spend more time with our twins at the end of the work day. Being able to telecommute and have supportive bosses also indicates good work-life balance.


What are some challenges you face in achieving work-life balance?

Sabrina: My work-life is pretty manageable but it’s challenging for Hendra as his job requires him to work OT almost every day. Some days, he would start his night shift at 5pm and would only end work at 10pm the next day.

Naturally, it’s exhausting for him and he would go straight to sleep once he is home, leaving little or no time for us as a couple. Ideally, I would prefer both of us to be home by 9pm so that we can spend at least an hour of quality time.

Natasha: We do not own a car, so every morning, I have to walk Aliya to her pre-school before heading to work. At the end of the work day, I have to rush to pick Aliya up.

By the time we reach home, there’s no time to cook dinner so we will have to buy food which is normal for us. Since Fariq is only free during odd hours. I’m usually the one handling everything on my own which can be a hectic daily routine!

Estee & Julian: Our work-life balance is pretty good so far. But it’s inevitable that meetings overrun, and we end up working late on certain days.

Sometimes, in order to pick the twins up on time, we'd have no choice but to leave before finishing our work which makes us feel guilty for leaving our colleagues in the lurch.


How do you overcome these challenges as a couple?

Sabrina: We communicate openly and try to understand each other’s jobs. I would wait for Hendra to reach home so that we can have dinner together and talk about our day.

Sometimes, Hendra will bring some work home and I would also make it a point to stay up a bit later to accompany him.

Fariq: We try our best to not work overtime on weekdays and we would reserve our weekends for outdoor activities with Aliya.

Estee: To have a supportive company culture is very important and it has helped both of us a fair bit. We are very grateful to have bosses who understand that we have family commitments.

Having family members that we can count on, to help look after the babies when we are busy at work is just as important.


Do you think it is possible to achieve work-life balance in Singapore?

Sabrina: Work-life balance needs to be instilled in the company culture itself. It would be great to see more companies allowing their staff to work from home.

Julian: Yes, you just have to be sure about your priorities and be firm about it. If family is your priority, make it clear to your bosses but, of course, have the responsibility to work hard and efficiently while at work!


For more information on Enhanced Work-Life Grant for companies, click here.

For more information on pro-leave schemes in Singapore, click here.

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