Worklife balance in the spotlight

THE STAR: KUALA LUMPUR, 9 December 2019 – What is a long festering issue in Malaysia and around the world was thrust into the spotlight by the International Advertising Association (IAA) Malaysia at its recent forum series event.

What is a long festering issue in Malaysia and around the world was thrust into the spotlight by the International Advertising Association (IAA) Malaysia at its recent forum series event.

Over the span of this year, issues surrounding Malaysia’s work environment, specifically the lack of a healthy work-life balance, have been making headlines.

With uncooperative bosses cited as a hurdle, work-life balance is still a distant dream for Malaysian professionals, seeking more ideal conditions like a 40-hour week. Workers in Kuala Lumpur have the worst work-life balance in the world, and they’re also one of the most overworked. Can Malaysia debunk the work-life balance myth?

To put the subject matter of work-life balance into a proper narrative, IAA Malaysia gathered panelists from pertinent fields to elicit perspectives that can be discussed and debated.

Addressing these issues and its impact on the physical and mental state of Malaysians, the forum brought into the open, solutions to overcome this dilemma while still managing expectations.

“IAA Malaysia’s purpose is to be the compass for the marketing communications industry. One of ways we do this is by providing the platform to create dialogue and conversation through our debate and forum series, bringing to the fore themes and topics that resonate with the climate in the industry,” said IAA Malaysia president John Chacko in his opening remarks.

Meera Sivasothy, the anchor of ‘Health & Living’ segment and general manager of BFM 89.9, was the moderator, armed with pointed questions to stimulate a healthy discussion.

To set the forum in motion, Sivasothy framed the theme, declaring, “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. It’s more of work-life integration”.

To weigh in on the situation, the opening salvo was fired by Star Media Group CEO Andreas Vogiatzakis. “Every situation is different. There’s a need to be prudent by evaluating the situation. For example, if a company needs to be turned around, 9 to 5 is not exactly workable.”

“Put the ship right, then, the work-life balance will rightly fall into place and can be made to happen. That said, the workplace environment has matured, it is far better than it used to be,” he said.

Meanwhile, Milan Agnihotri, chief strategy officer at Dentsu Aegis Network, opined that “the industry is going through a seismic shift. Almost all projects are on the remuneration model and this puts immense pressure on completion. Everything is controlled by the bottom line. There’s a need to understand this, and here’s where attitude comes into play”.

MYHRC Services managing consultant Deepa George, who has immense experience on human resource related matters in globally renowned corporations, highlighted the importance of an organisation, its leader and employee.

The work ethic principle must filter down, she said, adding that reward should be on optimising work time. “Work smart, not hard, that’s the key”, she noted.

Giving her take, Audra Ooi, associate principal, corporate communications at Digi Telecommunications, suggested that organising your work around your life is one way of approaching work-life integration.

Being physically present in the office from 9am-5pm does not necessarily guarantee the highest productivity for some, she said. “What matters more than clocking in and out of the office is being able to consistently deliver high quality work, meeting KPIs, and ultimately helping the company achieve business goals.

“As leaders, if work is all you have, how are you going to inspire young people? Our work culture and mindset must evolve to align with the expectations of the younger workforce. Then again, when you have invested so much passion in your work, is it still work?” Ooi asked.

From a medical point of view, Dr Paul Jambunathan, consultant clinical psychologist, ReGen Rehab Hospital, highlighted an insightful view when he said: “People keep over rationalising issues. All of us have a choice.

“When we arrive at this choice junction, we should consider all options and on how to approach matters that matter in life. And, contrary to what some people say… that young people are not resilient, actually, they are. Only in different ways,” he added.

The diverse opinions and views drew a flurry of questions and comments from the floor, where close to 100 professionals from the industry seemed thoroughly engrossed with how the moderator engaged the panelists to elicit responses that were food for thought. Indeed, work-life balance is more work-life integration.In addition to BFM89.9 as the primary sponsor, the event was supported by corporate members Dentsu Aegis Network and Amphibia Labs, along with, Star Media Group, Marketing Magazine and Interactive Rewards.

IAA Malaysia’s purpose for being is to connect, inform and represent the marketing communications community, with primary focus on knowledge and learning, and, networking.