When Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand brought her three-month-old baby into the UN General Assembly, it made headlines around the world.
In one action, Ardern showed that a new mother and a national leader can handle professional responsibilities — and in doing so, pushed forward our definitions of work-life integration.
What is work-life integration?
At a recent Diversity and Inclusion roundtable discussion held at Michael Page Singapore, we spoke with some of the top leaders in D&I planning and policy in the region about what work-life integration means for them; how companies can integrate policies that support employees; whether they are new mothers or have been away for other reasons; and why policies focused on work-life integration are essential for attracting and retaining top talent.
The idea of work-life integration means different things to different people, companies and cultures. While the degree of work-life integration that people want might vary, the basic idea is that it allows people to work in a way that allows them to have a flourishing life outside of work as well.
Bianca Stringuini, Head of Inclusion, Community and Wellbeing, Asia Pacific, Visa, notes that even the definition has to be a flexible one. “Work-life integration is a very personal and sometimes cultural thing,” she notes. “Different people want different levels of work-life integration. And I think that is the key — it’s about making work somehow work better for you.”
Widening the net
While the idea of work-life integration often centres on new mothers returning to work, it is important for companies to expand the concept to everyone, regardless of gender or stage of life.
Michelle Charles, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at SAP, underlines that the issue is not isolated to one target group. “Work-life integration isn’t just about maternity or people with kids,” she notes. “It’s about looking at different phases of life for everyone, whether that’s parenthood, being a caretaker for a family member or something else.”
“It is also not only about giving time off but supporting employees as they go through different phases of life.”
With a strong link between employee engagement and retention and good work-life integration policies and flexibility, it is becoming clear that life priorities and careerambitions can co-exist – given the right conditions.