‘Family days’ give workers needed time at home

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‘Family days’ give workers needed time at home

Twice a week, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, located in Jongno District, central Seoul, turns off its lights immediately after official working hours end.

At exactly 6:10 p.m. on Wednesday, an announcement blares over the loudspeakers: “The lights will be turned off in 10 minutes.”

The notification is part of an initiative started by Superintendent Moon Yong-lin, 67. Moon said that Wednesdays and Fridays are designated as “family days,” when workers are required to set aside their work and leave the building by the end of office hours.

Staffers also need direct approval from the superintendent to be granted overtime, he added, and Moon has even warned department heads they will be reprimanded if they assign too much extra time.

The government office implemented these measures after conducting a poll at the end of 2013, in which it surveyed 570 of its employees. Six out of 10 workers responded that they spent less than an hour with their families after work.

“Ethical development in children should start at the dinner table with their families,” said Moon.

The workers at the education office still aren’t used to leaving by the clock, so they are notified via an announcement three times a day — one at 4:20 p.m., 6 p.m. and 6:10 p.m.

In addition, they are encouraged to move their cars out of the parking lot after 6 p.m.

Staffers say they have already noticed differences since the new policy has been implemented.

“My wife and I both work,” said Baek Seung-hyun, a 34 year-old officer in charge of public information, “and she’s very happy that I can look after the kids after work.”

“[Before,] I didn’t have much time to spend with my daughter,” admitted Lee Hye-young, 45, an officer in charge of administrative management. “But now I know she is interested in library work and I visit the library with her on weekends.”

“Google, [perhaps] the symbol of information technology in the United Sates, also espouses the philosophy that harmony in the family brings with it high productivity,” said Park Ohsoo, a professor who teaches business at Seoul National University. “Productivity goes up when the organization cultivates autonomy and responsibility in its employees.”

BY KIM KI-HWAN, SHIN JIN [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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