The Snitch

Just a little of everything HR

Posts Tagged ‘work-life balance

Best and worst jobs of the year… or are they?

with 9 comments


I always feel a weird kind of excitement when an email pops into my box with the list of the best and worst jobs.

But that excitement quickly turned to outrage when I read that being a reporter ranked 196 out of 200 on CareerCast.com’s latest list. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

Anyway, not all news was bad news. HR managers came in at a surprising 3rd – not bad for a profession that wasn’t even on the list last year! Since the results were based in the US, given the number of layoffs and the slightly downcast employment market, I can see why HR slipped into top three. Companies need good talent, and can only do so with good HR managers. Opportunities are aplenty and there’s undeniable demand for HR folk who can not only help make sure an organisation is running like a well-oiled machine, but also filled to the brim with the best employees.

I rang up our April cover boy Hew Evans, regional HR director for Sony Electronics APAC, and asked him what’s the best thing about being a HR head.

“People make the difference in the business, and to get to work with those people every day gives such a great challenge and opportunity for success,” he said. But he’s not disillusioned either. While there are pros to the job, there is also “the frustration of working with people – yes, it is a double edged sword!”

And then he said there’s that misconception that “all we like to talk about is ‘tea and toilets’.” I guess you can’t win them all.

The top job of 2012 is – for the second year running – software engineering. Frankly, I’m not surprised, with this crazy phenomenon of cool apps and technology that seem to be coming at us from all sides, and being bought for billions of dollars.

PK, a software engineer friend, was only too happy to share why he thinks his profession is worthy of the top spot.

“I have a great amount of control over the work I do and I probably earn twice as much as most of my peers,” he said. “With my laptop and internet connection, I can do my work anywhere. That’s means working in bed or 600km away in Thailand.”

As if the high pay and flexibility aren’t enough, PK also waxed lyrical about the intangible benefits of the job.

“There is mainly satisfaction at two levels. The first is similar to the feeling you get when you finally solve that really long maths question and you got the perfect answer. The second is when you know what you made has some real use and value to someone else.”

He added being a software engineer isn’t as geeky and boring as it sounds, and given enough time, he could teach it to anyone with a keen interest. “It’s pretty much like math… just more interactive.”

Now I’m not the biggest fan of math, but if it means working out of a Starbucks on a beach in Thailand while earning twice what I do now, I’m sold. Especially since being a journo ranked all the way down in the bottom five of the list.

Robert, a fellow journo based out of Hong Kong, wasn’t too thrilled when I broke the news to him. “A part of me just died a little. Dishwashers and waiters are ranked above me,” he emailed back.

I asked him why he reckoned being a journo was one of the worst jobs this year. “We don’t meet sales targets or complete projects and assignments – we report news,” he lamented. “Our breathers come when people stop breathing.”

“Hollywood’s fabricated stereotype of hard-nosed, foul-mouthed, truth-twisting bastards adventurously fleeing about with a flask of brandy barely does any justice to the educated, ethical, well-mannered, nervous reality of some who are simply begging for a scoop on the phone,” he added.

“Tinsel Town did get one thing straight though: We aren’t liked.”

Amongst the list’s top ten worst jobs, which included being a butcher, an oil rig farmer and a lumberjack in the top spot, broadcasting came in #10.

“Broadcast journalism certainly is fun and fast-paced but it’s not a flexible industry to work in. Anti-social hours can come hand in hand with the job,” Sarah, a broadcaster working in Singapore, said.

“Plus news never stops, so that means being in the office on bank holidays and having to fight for time off at periods like Christmas and New Year.”

And along with Rob, she added the pay isn’t anything to die for. “I rarely meet rich journalists!”

But I guess at the end of the day, CareerCast.com’s list ranked the jobs using five criteria: physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. They didn’t measure job satisfaction, professional pride or passion – things that I personally think should count for something too.

In a day and age where work and personal life are so closely intertwined, it’s the personal intangible benefits that go further in keeping someone with a job.

Sure, working on a beach seems super fun, but would I really choose that over the insane satisfaction I get when a feature I’ve worked on for weeks is still talked about by people I meet at events months down the road? Probably not.

Feel free to share your thoughts on why you think your job it’s the best or worst in the world.

Advertisements

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

April 13, 2012 at 11:00 am

Love them or risk them leaving… In style.

leave a comment »

Over the past few months, I’ve sat comfortably at my desk and watched with bemusement as the world tripped over itself trying to find new ways to quit – and leave a mark.

Let’s face it – the economy isn’t really rocking right now, so to quit a job in certain industries takes courage as it is. But when you top that up with an open letter published in the New York Times, jumping off a plane or getting a marching band playing your resignation, then you’ve got a winner – and the attention of the world.

Greg Smith, a Goldman Sachs executive director, made headlines this week after publishing an opinion piece in The New York Times, declaring that after 12 years, he’s had it with Goldman Sachs’ “toxic” culture.

“To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way,” Smith wrote. “The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.”

The piece, which was published the same day Smith handed in his resignation, revealed intimate details of what Smith claims happens in the corridors of one of the world’s easily recognisable investment banking and securities firm.

“It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as ‘muppets,’ sometimes over internal e-mail,” Smith said.

But while Smith’s dramatic – and extremely public – exit got heads turning, a personal favourite of mine is Steven Slater’s resignation. (Granted, when I said he jumped out of a plane, it was already safely on the runaway and not 30,000 feet in the air. Now, that would be something.)

In 2010, Slater, a JetBlue flight attendant, was so fed-up with his job that when a female passenger refused to stop unloading her carry-on luggage from the overhead compartment because the passengers haven’t been given the green light to do so, the luggage falling on his head was the last straw.

The passenger refused to apologise and instead hurled a couple of vulgarities at Slater, causing him to react accordingly. He promptly got on the plane’s public address system and said, “To the passenger who just called me a m*****f***er, f*** you. I’ve been in this business 28 years, and I’ve had it.”

He then grabbed a couple of beers off the aisle (you know he means business), released the emergency exit slide and made his unforgettable departure from the plane – and his career.

And who can forget Joey DeFrancesco, a Marriott Renaissance hotel employee, who was done with the “horrendous” working conditions that he ambushed his boss, announced, “Jared, I’m here to tell you I’m quitting,” and walked out of the hotel as the marching band started to play triumphantly behind him.

Oh, and did I mention the whole thing was caught on video and promptly uploaded onto YouTube, garnering over 3 million views at last count?

I call him the pied piper of disgruntled employees.

Which leads me to the point of all this. Employees these days need you to care – fair and simple. There aren’t really two ways about it, especially in current business climate where a bit of TLC can do a lot more than an extra couple hundred dollars of pay.

Speaking at the first Ogilvy Do debates in Singapore last night, So-Young Kang, founder and CEO of global leadership development and experience design firm Awaken Group, said the one thing missing from the workplace today is love.

But while I won’t go so far as to agree with her and urge you to give your employees a hug right now (you can if you want to), I will say that a bit of recognition and a lot of listening to make sure they’re happy and fulfilled is critical.

Businesses these days cannot afford to be focused on just the bottom line. With employees often more than eager to jump ship at the next best opportunity (fellow Gen Y-ers, I’m looking at you – but I’m generalising), leaders need to step up and make sure they’re not just bosses, but colleagues.

Many have waxed lyrical at the near-magical effect of employee recognition, but as a captive audience of the HR world, I have to admit I’ve seen it do wonders. So go ahead, ask about your employee’s day, take an extra minute to listen to them and find out what drives them in the morning and keeps them awake at night, and who knows what that emotional investment might bring you in terms of business results.

It’s worth a shot, and it’s definitely easier to manage than a public embarrassment should they pull a resignation stunt.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

March 16, 2012 at 11:30 am

Sleeping at work? A dream comes true!

leave a comment »


They have always said that everything you need to know you learn in kindergarten, and one of the biggest things I took away from my pre-school education was the need for afternoon naps.

So when I came across an online article while doing some research (read: taking a break and checking Facebook – yes, I’m back on that bandwagon) that said naps at work not only boost productivity but also reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems, I was thrilled.

Win-win!

There is actual science behind this. When a person is tired, neurons in the brain shut off, which essentially means that while your body is awake, your brain is fast asleep. Taking a quick 15-minute nap helps you recharge and get those neurons up and running again.

In fact, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley confirmed in 2010 that napping also improves the brain’s ability to retain information. They added that mid-day naps “not only rights the wrong of prolonged wakefulness but, at a neuro-cognitive level, moves you beyond where you were before”.

But isn’t it bad enough that employees are already taking breaks for coffee and cigarettes? Will bosses really be okay with workers disappearing for 15 minutes at a time to catch up on some sleep?

Thankfully, I have friends in high places and decided to give them a call to get their take on what I hope will be the next great office fad.

Douglas Gan, founder and chief executive officer of location-based service provider ShowNearby, tells me he doesn’t mind his employees sleeping at work. The last time I visited their office for lunch, Douglas even pointed out the couch in one of the bigger offices and proudly told me, “That’s where some of the guys take naps”.

What’s more, he doesn’t limit how long they can nap for and even encourages his staff to work from home if they’re too tired to come into the office. No wonder ShowNearby was one of the recipients of Asia’s Best Employer Brand Awards this year.

“Naps can help them get rid of a tired mind and move forward,” Douglas says. “Also, I think because they appreciate the fact that they can nap, they tend to work better when they’re awake.”

However, not everyone is onboard with the idea of napping at work. Edvarcl Heng, social media manager at MediaCom, says instead of naps, his employees are allowed to take breaks as often as they like, as long as productivity isn’t affected.

“They are also equipped with Nerf guns (a type of toy gun which shoots foam bullets) and games on their Macs as an explicit nod from management that we will not frown upon fun,” Ed says.

On top of the fun and games, employees are also allowed to go out to buy titbits (another one of my favourite break-time activities), surf the Internet and play games with each other. “A worker is not an automaton. They need rest to boost their productivity,” Ed says.

While writing this blog entry, I was also multi-tasking (talking to my best friend) and found out that the only reason he hadn’t replied my messages the past hour was because he was – you guessed it – taking a nap at work. He claims to even have a sleeping bag in the office, but that’s information I’ll take with a grain of salt.

“The trick is to get the duration just right. 15 minutes to half an hour tops,” he advises, sounding like a professional nap-taker. “Anything less won’t help and too long will make you groggy when you wake up.”

But does it really help with his productivity for the rest of the day? “Yeah, definitely!” he says. “How else do you think I get through the day?”

Well, I guess it all comes down to the industry and nature of the business you are in.

Let me know which side of the fence you’re on by leaving a comment or sending me a message on Twitter (@theofficesnitch).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to have a quick talk with my bosses on setting up a designated nap area in our new office.

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

September 2, 2011 at 11:23 am

HRTV: PwC on the importance of work-life balance

leave a comment »

Singapore – Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of providing staff with a good work-life balance, and the impact it has on employees’ productivity.

Deborah Ong, human capital partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), said companies who are able to provide their employees with a healthy work-life balance will see an increase in their staff’s productivity. This is because organisations will be helping employees develop holistically through work and play, and make the staff feel valued and taken care of.

In an interview with HRTV at the recent JP Morgan corporate challenge run, Ong added it is essential human resources (HR) get support from senior leaders and the upper management in the organisation in order to effectively execute work-life balance programmes.

“HR will not be able to do it alone,” she said, adding that management buy in will ensure the proper “integration” of work-life balance initiatives within the organisation.

She also advised HR to look into providing more creative and innovative engagement plans, such as holiday subsidies as a remuneration, to better engage and retain staff.


Human Resources Website
Follow us on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

June 22, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Small Talk: Work-life balance high on global agenda

leave a comment »

Singapore – Local employees worry about achieving work-life balance, while workers in China fear overworking to death.

A new Nielsen Global Online Survey revealed 15% of Singaporeans are concerned about their work-life balance. This is slightly ahead of the Asia Pacific average of 12%. But Singaporeans are not the only ones fretting about work.

Employees in China are afraid of overworking to death after a staff member of PricewaterhouseCoopers died. Although her death was attributed to meningitis, blog posts prior to the tragic incident revealed her work pressure was beginning to affect her health.

Based on survey results by Beijing-based recruitment website zhaopin.com, 45% of 5,000 Chinese employees claim they were suffering from work fatigue and high stress levels. Over 70% also said they were overworked, and 40% were prone to flaring up in the office.

Sabrina Zolkifi shares her thoughts on why providing employees with work-life balance is key, as well as why Johnson & Johnson is revamping their global compensation model. She also explores how annoying office quirks can be affecting your work relationships.

Additionally, Sabrina revisits this week’s video interview with Shelly Lazarus, chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. Lazarus spoke to Marketing Magazine’s editor Deepa Balji and discusses how smart bosses use work-life balance as a retention strategy.


Human Resources Website
Follow us on Twitter
Like us on Facebook

Written by Sabrina Zolkifi

June 10, 2011 at 12:07 pm

HRTV: Ogilvy & Mather on providing work-life balance

leave a comment »

Singapore – If you’re a smart boss, you’ll understand why it is critical to help your employees achieve a work-life balance.

According to Shelly Lazarus, chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, smart bosses are those who are willing to listen to the needs of employees and providing a work arrangement suitable for their needs.

“We have to take people on their own terms or we don’t have them,” Lazarus said, adding that organisations that are not willing to adapt to the specific needs of employees will risk losing them.

Especially in light of the current war for talent raging, she said companies who refuse to accommodate the needs of employees by providing incentives such as flexible working hours, put themselves at a disadvantage.

She said companies have to assure women that they are willing to tailor their working arrangements to suit employees’ needs. Lazarus shared a story of a female employee who requested to work only three days a week after coming back from having a child.

On the topic of women employees, Lazarus added “anyone who would deprive himself of 50% of the talent pool is insane”. She said with female employees, the challenge lies in retention and not attraction, reemphasising the importance of providing an ideal work-life balance to keep top women talent.


Human Resources Website
Follow us on Twitter
Like us on Facebook