Angie Yang’s life is a patchwork of duty and adaptability – from her time as a warrant officer at the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to being a security officer and, now, a cleaner-in-training.
At 65, she exemplifies the increasing need for flexible work arrangements (FWAs), especially for the older workforce.
Her tale is not just about career changes but also a compelling narrative about family devotion and societal contribution.
From the army to security and beyond
At 18, Angie enlisted in the SAF, spending 42 years of her life there.
A stern and disciplined force, she earned the respect of her peers and colleagues. But all good things come to an end. Upon turning 60, she bid farewell to her military career.
“I was quite sad when I had to retire from the army,” Angie said.
Retirement was not for her. While many of her colleagues who have reached this age simply stopped working, Angie wanted more.
“I feel it’s a waste of life. I want to live my life more meaningfully. Not doing anything … I thought it’s not in my blood,” she shared.
Her ‘retirement’ lasted four months before she started working again as a security officer within the same rigid and stringent environment she had always known.
She had been doing this for the past five years until earlier this year.
“In April, I turned 65. That was my turning point in deciding to come out of my comfort zone,” said Angie.
A family to care for
Angie’s sense of duty isn’t confined to national security.
Her younger sister, afflicted with a debilitating stroke a decade ago, requires constant care as she is now in a vegetative state. Though another sister cares for her during weekdays, the caregiving needs don’t end when the workweek does.
Angie thus steps in during weekends to relieve her other sister from her duties, shifting from a woman in uniform to an unflinching caregiver, ensuring her bedridden sister is looked after with love and diligence.
“That’s why my main concern is I must have time to be there for my sister,” she said.
The quest for flexibility
After leaving her job in the security line, Angie briefly tried her hand as a patient service associate at a healthcare facility. But she realised it was not the right fit for her.
Her caregiving role clashed with her employment. The job offered neither the welfare nor the flexible hours Angie desperately needed to juggle her responsibilities.
The realisation was stark: her workplace didn’t align with her needs, especially when it came to caring for her family.
“I need to take care of my family … but I didn’t get any paid leave. I found that there was not much welfare and too many restrictions,” Angie lamented.
The CUB programme: a perfect fit
When Angie was mulling over her options, she stumbled upon NTUC’s C U Back at Work! (CUB) programme.
Organised by NTUC U Women and Family in collaboration with facilities management firm Chye Thiam Maintenance, the programme caught her eye for one defining feature – flexibility.
A new horizon opened up as Angie began training as a cleaner, even pocketing a modest allowance for her effort.
Her choice was initially met with scepticism from family and friends, who were apprehensive about the social stigma of cleaning for a living.
“One of my friends said, ‘Why must you work as a cleaner? You can afford [not to] work.’ But not working is not for me,” Angie said.
She remained steadfast. Angie knew that the true essence of work was not its title but the opportunity to fulfil her obligations and make a difference.
“If nobody wants to do it, who will sweep the floors, who will clean up your office?
“To me, even if it’s a cleaner job, even if I have to wash toilets, as long as it suits my requirements to have flexible time, I’m okay,” she said.
Flexible work arrangements are a key focus for NTUC.
Through their #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations, a dialogue series with various worker groups, NTUC has learnt that many women share Angie’s anxieties about balancing work and caregiving responsibilities.
A life of meaning and contribution
Angie’s life is not just about work and family – she also firmly believes in active ageing.
That’s why she finds the time to volunteer as a Silver Generation Ambassador despite her busy schedule.
“What we do is we go around to houses to interview and engage the seniors and chat with them about active ageing programmes. That’s why I also want flexible hours to do something worthwhile.
“It’s a waste to do nothing just because you’re older. There’s a lot to offer and to gain from staying active in your community. There’s no money, no income from it, but at least I’m contributing to society,” Angie said.
A lesson for us all
Angie’s words sum up her philosophy: “I plan to work until the day I cannot work. If you can work, why not?”
This lady is the epitome of a life in service – to her country, family, and community. And her story speaks about the value of flexible work arrangements in today’s fast-paced world.
It’s not just about earning a living but about making life worth living and finding that the fabric of a meaningful life is woven from threads of duty, flexibility, and the tireless quest to contribute in whatever way you can.