“Family-first” mentality could move our logistics industry forward

Published 9 January 2019

The challenging nature of the logistics industry has left it fighting a manpower crunch. Across the world, employees at terminals and ports work around the clock to cater to vessels sailing with consumer goods and commodities to ensure that all processes are smooth-sailing. Given this demanding nature of the job, it is no surprise that many may then see the industry as less appealing than others.

Particularly in Singapore, given its geographical location, the country serves as a hub between the East and the West. This means that those working in the industry are more likely to work beyond standard working hours and across time zones to serve business partners across the globe. Undoubtedly, this can affect one’s balance between work and personal time, which to some, does not make for an attractive career.

Meanwhile, in Finland, where Kalmar is headquartered at, the logistics industry has relatively perfected the formula to keep its employees’ work-life balance in check. This is despite the similar challenges and working environment that its logistics industry share with that of Singapore’s. The industry’s ability to allow employees to strike a healthy balance between work and personal lives has been key in making the logistic industry more attractive to solve any potential lack of manpower in the long run.

Flexible working culture is key

Flexible work arrangement is one of the key areas to achieve work-life balance. Finland, amongst other Nordic countries, is leading internationally when it comes to flexible working hours.[1] Flexible work arrangements include having the ability to work from home, leaving work for a few hours for family matters, as well as fulfilling the stipulated working hours without adhering to strict start-end timings.

For instance, Finns make it a priority have dinner at home every day to spend time with their family. Their work also provides them the flexibility to help cope with any family commitments.

In general, a Finn works an average of 40 hours per week, with a large share of employees having some form of flexible work arrangement in their working hours. Many parents, especially mothers, choose to work part-time as well, with one in five choosing this arrangement to balance family commitments.[2]

The focus on employee satisfaction has earned Finland the title as one of the best countries to work in Europe – having 95.3% satisfaction rate based on the EU Commission report.[3]

On the other hand, the Asian working culture, including in Singapore, shares a more regimental approach to work timings. With the trending gig economy in Singapore, more are looking towards temporary positions to give them more flexibilities to pursue their personal interest and take up more commitments.[4]

“Family-first” as first-steps

To make the industry more appealing, especially to the younger workforce, employers in logistics can take the first step in adopting a flexible work arrangement as it encourages a harmonious and efficient working environment. While Singapore is encouraging more companies to adopt such arrangements through its “Tripartite Standard” scheme, the logistics industry has a long way to see implementation industry-wide.[5]

Turning the workspace into a family-friendly environment can potentially be part of the equation to solve the logistics manpower crunch.

A Chinese saying, “修身,齐家,治国,平天下” details that family plays an important role in the progress of one’s career.

Policies and initiatives such as ‘bring-your-child to work’ programmes, and internal childcare services, can help employees to focus more at work and worry less about family matters, turning them into a much more productive workforce.

In Kalmar Singapore, with about 40 per cent of our employees having children under the age of six, adopting these initiatives can make a difference to the work culture. In fact, there are plans for such initiatives to be introduced in the coming year.

While Singapore has initiatives to encourage companies to adopt employment policies that promote work-life balance, the logistic industry still has more work to be done to provide the same environment as their Finland counterpart to make the sector appealing to potential employees.

Manpower crunch need not be a long stay, as long as the industry adopt policies on par with organisations in other sectors to stay competitive.

[1] Finnish working life is the third best in Europe. Working Life 2020, 14 June 2017.
[2] Flexible work arrangements. Nordic Information on Gender, 11 October 2018.
[3] Finns among most satisfied workers in the EU. Good News Finland, 4 June 2015.
[4] Bosses and workers need to mind the gaps in the gig economy. The Business Times, 15 February 2018.
[5] 250 companies adopt new standard on flexi-work arrangements. The Straits Times, 6 October 2018.

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