Photo Credit: Fawwaz Baktee
Six years ago when her son was a toddler, Jessica Ong, decided to leave her previous job in the hospitality industry to take better care of him.
“The job I had was really stressful. I had to work really long hours and did not have time for my son or family… I needed a switch in careers,” said the 39-year-old.
Soon after leaving the industry, Jessica found new employment at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), which she said was worlds apart from her previous job.
“I was happier when I joined NAFA. I found out they have a very family-friendly environment, and the management is generally supportive of families,” said Jessica, who today is an events and sponsorship manager at the school.
The Right Workplace
The family-friendly environment proved to be what Jessica needed when she had her second child back in 2013. Her daughter was born with a congenital heart condition.
“It became more challenging for me as a working mum. My girl’s condition was actually quite severe. She had to go through multiple operations. When my girl was discharged from the hospital, she had a feeding tube and oxygen support. So you can imagine having to work after going through all that,” she recalled.
Jessica extended her maternity leave and when she came back to work, her management allowed her to work-from-home a few days a month. But there came a point when she felt very guilty for continuing to work even though her daughter needed her at home.
“For working mums, generally speaking, there’s always this thought of not spending enough time with their children, not being able to see them through their milestones and all that. But for mothers with children with special needs like me, it’s far more challenging,” Jessica said.
Although at the brink of quitting her job, she had a discussion with her bosses to find possible avenues as she still wanted to continue working. NAFA came up with a solution for Jessica and offered her a flexible work arrangement where she only needed to come to work three days a week.
“Without these arrangements, I don’t think I would have been able to continue working. I’m really grateful to the management for being progressive in their practices,” she said.
Last year, NAFA also tapped on the WorkPro Work-Life Grant to implement new family-friendly schemes such as the telecommuting and staggered work hours for all its employees. The school now plans to set up a childcare centre and a lactation room at its premises.
“If we talk about work-life friendly practices, we believe it is part and parcel of creating a workforce that is happy and engaged. This is the driving force behind what we do,” said NAFA President Chia Mia Chiang.