Balance between work, family and play

  • Business
  • Saturday, 05 Apr 2003

BALANCE – between work, family and play – is of paramount importance, even as one aspires to climb the corporate ladder.  

“However, at different periods you may have to spend more time on work, and at certain other periods you my have to spend more time at home,” says DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd's chief information officer Chua Seok Theng, a mother of three. 

“I always see that there is a balance between work, home and play. Monday to Friday is for work. The family and children understand. Since their young days my children had been brought up to understand that weekdays are for work and weekends are for family. They already have that mindset.  

“Weekends are also for play – for games, for karaoke; badminton with my children, golf with my spouse. Karaoke is for all of us.” 

Chua, who professes to be very good at badminton from her school days to her university days, has found her match in her elder daughter, aged 18.  

“She plays for the state,” Chua says by way of excuse. But the mother in her admits: “We are getting older, they are getting stronger, so we will be beaten. But it is fun for us to be together.” Her younger daughter is 17 and her son, 13. 

All her children are very active in sports, Chua says, attributing it to the fact that she and her husband are very good at sports. “This is a very good influence we have on the children.”  

And Chua also wants to see that her staff balances work with fun. “To me, we also must have a happy and fun work environment. You come into office, every day there is a deadline, and everyday there is a target. I like to bring a relaxed mood to my people, too.  

“I have promised my managers, we should start somewhere, maybe on a monthly basis, but we have yet to make it happen.” 

This is because of the stage they are at, she surmises. “When you are in the early 30s, there are challenges. You have young children; you begin to have commitments like a car and a house. You also have a commitment to your career. This situation is very tough.  

“And 60-70 per cent of my managers belong to the early 30s. So, whenever I can, I give them time to go back to their family.”  

But she also sees a mindset change today, not only among a lot of parents, but among companies, too: that there is such a thing called rest days under normal circumstances. 

Of her own struggles, she recalls: “In the early days, we were involved in a lot of projects (her husband is also an engineer). As the kids grow up they adjust a little bit. We try to balance our distribution of work also. 

“But because of the nature of IT (information technology) – sometimes there are a lot of deadlines, a lot of system things that I have to attend to – my mindset is actually 7x24. Maybe now I may not physically have to come out 7x24, but the mindset is still there.  

“At midnight, when an SMS comes in I will wake up, because my system is customised this way. When an SMS comes in, I know that I am on duty and I wake up. But when people try to wake me, I do not wake up. It's very funny. 

“I check with some of my peers on the engineering side. They also have the same mindset. Their system has been like that for 20 years already.” 

And despite knowing at first hand what a tough life being in IT can be, says Chua, her elder daughter, now doing her foundation in college, still wants to go into IT.  

“It does seem to me there's a bit of environmental influence,” reasons Chua. “She's close to me, she sees me doing this kind of thing and wants to be part of it. 

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