Yvonne McGill hails from Texas, USA and has been living in Singapore for more than a year now. She lives with her husband Mike and 6-year-old son Jake, who is currently attending the Singapore American School. They also have two older kids, Megan, 21, and Caitlin, 18, who are pursuing work and studies in their home state.
Yvonne McGill shares her views on work life balance in Singapore.
Like most working mums, Yvonne finds herself juggling various roles each day. Apart from taking care of the needs of her family and staying in touch with her older children, she also oversees the Commercial Business division at Dell as Vice President of Finance & Chief Financial Officer.
So what does she do to balance her time between work and family life? Find out what she has to say in our interview with her below:
Q: Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, once said that it’s impossible for working mums to have it all, i.e. a successful career and time spent with the family. Do you agree with this statement?
“What I found from working with my team members at Dell over the years is that it is important that they share with me what their priorities are, so that I can help them facilitate.
Yvonne discusses the issue of work life balance in Singapore at the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network lunch event recently.
“I like to look at it as work life effectiveness, because I feel like I’m always reprioritising all the time. So for example, if there’s an emergency at work, you might have to not do something that you have planned with the family – and the opposite should apply also.
“My priorities are always my faith, my family and my friends. But I may have tasks to do during the day that may not have reflected on those priorities. So that’s where I re-shift and reprioritise. And I found Dell to be very open in allowing that – it’s okay to recognise that people have life outside of work too.”
Go to the next page to read the rest of the conversation on work life balance in Singapore
“Do I stay home with him or head back to work?” This is a question that has crossed the minds of many mums.
Q: What do you think of flexible work arrangements? Do you think this helps to improve productivity at the workplace?
“I definitely do. What we’ve found through research is that you lose a lot of women in the workplace during their childbearing years. That’s because they have to make that hard decision of ‘Do I stay home to raise a family?’ or ‘Do I raise a family and continue to work?’
“What we’ve found is that flexibility allows [mothers] an option. It’s still a very personal choice, but having that option is key and it enables us to have that diversity of thought and background in the workplace so that we can have better solutions and answers for our customers.
“At the end of the day, we perform better as a diverse company.”
Availability of a connective workforce may be the solution that allows mums to balance the best of work and family life.
Q: Do you see more workplaces in Singapore offering this flexi work arrangement?
“At Dell, we actually have 20% of our workforce who officially participate in a connective workplace. What I’ve seen is that as different companies try it and it becomes an expectation, especially with the younger generation, we find that the workforce tend to be happier and more productive.
“Although Dell has been established for around 30 years now, we have been offering this connective workforce arrangement for less than 10 years. So, it’s new and catching on, but it doesn’t [necessarily] mean that it works for everyone.
“Some people may not have a conducive environment to work at home, so it is important to make sure that that person can be successful in that environment before we go through that process. At the end of [the] day, our goal is for people to be happy and successful and not feel stressed because of this choice of flexibility that we gave them.”
As much as possible, Yvonne tries to stay connected with her two older children on a daily basis.
Q: What are some things that you had to give up to balance parenthood and maintaining a high power job?
“I think I can use this experience that I’m [going through] in Singapore right now. [At this point], it’s clearly the distance to where my two eldest children are. I think it’s very hard for me, yet we [managed] to figure it out.
“I Skype and talk to them on the phone all the time. I [also] have a routine with my daughter where she calls me on her way to work every morning, which is 9pm our time. It was overwhelming at first, but it didn’t take very long until we [settled] on a routine.
“We also figured out how to maximise the time when we are face-to-face, and I probably do more things when I’m together with them now than I would have if we were still living together. I think they also appreciate me more now.”
It is important to share your priorities with the other members of your team at work in order to get things done effectively.
Q: Please share with us some tips on how mums can strike a work life balance.
“You have to be willing to share your priorities with others so that they can facilitate or enable you to deliver against those priorities. Don’t be scared to speak up.
“Never think of those prioritisation as some type of hindrance to your success. Everyone has different priorities. I think I have been successful at Dell because of this enabling environment that we have, and also because I’m willing to share and not afraid to take risks. Each of us takes risks to different degrees in our lives every day; you have to be willing to accept opportunities when it knocks. But also have patience, because every day won’t be perfect.
“Lastly, you need to figure out what’s important to you in your life. Just because some mums are stay-at-home mums doesn’t mean that they are better than working mums. Because time spent with your child isn’t necessarily the key differentiator; it’s the quality of time that matters. Try to maximise those moments and find out what’s important to your kids, and try to participate in the things that are important to them.”
Try not to beat yourself up for the little regrets in life, because you are bound to make mistakes as a mum, and learn from them.
Q: What regrets do you have as a mum?
“I just had a recent experience missing ‘Parents Weekend’ in the U.S. for both my daughters’ sororities. I was going to be there with them the next weekend because my younger daughter is being initiated into the sorority but I missed ‘Parents Weekend’.
“So when I asked my 21-year-old what plans did she have for the weekend, she said, “It’s Parents Weekend but we don’t have any parents – we’re parent-less. So we’re not doing anything.” I suggested that maybe she could do something with her sister or grandparents, but she said, “No, we’re just sad because you’re not here.”
“Since I live halfway across the world, I chose to think of it differently. Did I wish I did not miss Parents Weekend? Absolutely. But I was going back the week after.
“You can’t do the big regrets [in life], and as far as possible, I try to purge them from my memory.”
Q: If you could turn back time, what’s the one thing that you’d do differently?
Treasure your time with your kids while they are young – because they are not going to stay this way for long.
“If I could turn back time, I’d make sure I cherished every moment with my children because it goes so fast. I just wrote a letter to my eldest who is graduating and I said: “Where did 21 years go? It seems like just yesterday you were teaching me how deeply I could love someone so small. And now you’re going to enter the workforce and become a teacher. How did that happen?”
“So I’d definitely make sure I cherish those moments by going a little slower in helping them become mature and independent.”
Do you have similar insights to share on how mums can achieve work life balance? Feel free to get in touch with us by dropping an email to [email protected].