Home of­fices can help achieve health­ier work-life bal­ance

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By LIU WEIFENG

Iam even hap­pier thanmy son when his fall se­mes­ter fi­nally ends and the win­ter va­ca­tion be­gins. I won’t be puz­zled again bymy in­abil­ity to be with him when the red alert for smog is is­sued and the school is closed.

Dur­ing the re­cent two red smog alerts, on Dec 8-10 and Dec 19-22, I had no op­tion but to sendmy seven-year-old son tomy neigh­bor’s home. Though the red alert raises the pos­si­bil­ity of a flex­i­ble work op­tion, very fewChi­nese em­ploy­ers have ac­tu­ally taken this up.

I hope work­ing moth­ers can be al­lowed flex­i­ble work­ing hours on red alert days. That does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that peo­ple stop work­ing and gen­er­ate no pro­duc­tiv­ity. On the con­trary, house­hold chores con­trib­ute a great deal to fam­ily man­age­ment and to the coun­try’s eco­nomic growth. House­hold chores have for long been a miss­ing el­e­ment in the coun­try’s GDP.

The un­paid econ­omy by Bri­tish house­wives and hus­bands val­ued by the Of­fice forNa­tional Sta­tis­tics wows the pub­lic, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by The Daily Tele­graph. The ONS re­vealed that house­hold cloth­ing and laun­dry ser­vices were worth 97.2 bil­lion pounds ($138.53 bil­lion) in 2012, the equiv­a­lent of 5.9 per­cent of its GDP. Un­paid child­care was worth 343 bil­lion pounds in 2010, three times the con­tri­bu­tion of the coun­try’s fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try.

Mean­while, men’s share of child­care has kept ris­ing in the past decades, which is also a sym­bol of so­cial progress. The more de­vel­oped the econ­omy and the bet­tere­d­u­cated the peo­ple, the higher the ac­cep­tance of man’s role in child­care.

If the con­cept of the “home of­fice” could be ac­cepted, it would cre­ate a very hu­mane work­place en­vi­ron­ment, en­hanc­ing em­ployee loy­alty and at­tract more tal­ent. More im­por­tantly, it could greatly im­prove the ur­ban traf­fic sit­u­a­tion, al­le­vi­at­ing pol­lu­tion and boost­ing work ef­fi­ciency.

The “home of­fice” has been a pop­u­lar work­ing con­cept in de­vel­oped economies such as theUnited States, Europe and Ja­pan, es­pe­cially in the IT sec­tor and con­sumer-ori­ented busi­ness among com­pa­nies such asHewlett-Packard Co, Xerox Co Ltd, Proc­ter & Gam­ble Co.

P&G adopted flex­i­ble work­ing hours in 2007 and al­lows its em­ploy­ees to work from home one day in a week. Em­ploy­ees see it as wel­fare, en­abling them to stay cozy, think deeper and do bet­ter.

A study by Stan­fordUniver­sity and Ctrip found that peo­ple work­ing at home per­formed on av­er­age 20 per­cent bet­ter than their of­fice­bound coun­ter­parts, ac­cord­ing to a nine-month study among 1,000 par­tic­i­pants in China.

Re­turn­ing to the child­care is­sue. Al­though a con­sid­er­able num­ber of Chi­nese fam­i­lies are ca­pa­ble of pick­ing up their chil­dren from school at any time, I feel sorry I can’t. I’ma work­ing mom, and the of­fice is 15 kilo­me­ters away frommy home.

Those who can, mostly de­pend on the chil­dren’s re­tired grand­par­ents, or paid do­mes­tic helpers. The gray­haired gen­er­a­tion in China is a pow­er­ful force to take care of their grand­chil­dren and chil­dren, who are and will be the only gen­er­a­tion in China’s his­tory to be the on­ly­child group, thus re­ceiv­ing lots of at­ten­tion from their par­ents.

How­ever, I don’t think we should take such care for granted. I’ma strong be­liever that par­ents are the only ones sup­posed to take care of their own chil­dren.

Lots of house­hold chores like clean­ing, laun­dry, iron­ing and even cook­ing could be out­sourced, but not child­care. We should do it our­selves, oth­er­wise, what else should par­ents do? Rais­ing chil­dren is not just about spend­ing money, but also about the time and ef­forts put in by the par­ents.

The ad­vance of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy and the ser­vice sec­tor, has greatly al­le­vi­ated the bur­den shoul­dered by house­wives and work­ing moms. But we still con­stantly feel the pinch be­tween tight work sched­ule and child care re­spon­si­bil­ity.

We can have a de­cent life on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, but when schools un­ex­pect­edly close on non-hol­i­day days, our lives be­come a a mess. Al­low­ing women who have chil­dren study­ing in schools to choose flex­i­ble work­ing hours would be a small step for a com­pany but a big ges­ture in show­ing re­spect to women and build­ing a bet­ter so­ci­ety.

Con­tact the writer at li­uweifeng@chi­nadaily.com.cn

WEI XIAOWU / CHINA DAILY

Pedes­tri­ans cross the road in Zhong­guan­cun, Bei­jing, dur­ing a smoggy day in De­cem­ber.

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