Founder Shun-Lien Sung’s Professional Journey
To understand the values behind MRS Micro-Work’s work model, we must first understand founder Shun-Lien Sung's own journey.
After graduating from pharmacy school and earning her license, Sung began work at the pharmacy of Far Eastern Memorial Hospital. During this time, she successfully helped to compile the internal pharmaceuticals manual and digitize the billing system, reducing patient medicine pick up waiting time.
But after getting married and having two sons, Sung was expected to return home to take care of the children full time. Caught between the demands of work and traditional expectations, Sung had no choice but to make a tough decision to resign, as many women even today must do.
Though she was forced to leave the job she loved in order to raise her children, Sung did not stop challenging the system. Instead, she used her own expertise in technology to overcome certain gender constructs.
While still taking care of the children full time, Sung translated for Science Monthly, allowing her to earn a small income. Then, she spent two years with her husband and sons in the United States. While working part time at a law firm suggested to her by a college classmate, Sung learned of the Awakening Foundation and began volunteering for its Civil Law Enquiry Hotline. At the hotline, Sung worked with women shackled by the expectations of traditional society and culture which forced them to choose between work and family. This helped her discover a way out of this trap and find the confidence to start a new chapter in her life.
Founding MRS Micro-Work
In 1997, Sung decided to leave her job at the law firm where she practiced. However, she retained several clients and took cases on her own, ultimately opening her own firm which would become MRS Micro-Work. Steady client referrals allowed Sung to slowly begin to recruit others like her; specifically, women with backgrounds in science.
The women at MRS Micro-Work are all highly-educated, married women with backgrounds in pharmacy but unable to work outside of the home full time because of personal or health reasons. Sung decided to find a way to turn this misconstrued weakness into a strength. She established a system allowing for flexible work hours and location, and within five years of starting her firm, Sung had already recruited three employees. Ten years and eight employees later, MRS Micro-Work was officially registered as a legal entity.
Empowerment, Trust, and Efficiency
Today, MRS Micro-Work provides clients such as the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA) with regulatory consulting services for national and international food products, cosmetics, medical equipment, and pharmaceuticals. And though the company has decided to remain small in order to provide custom-tailored services to clients, the impact of its model is certainly not.
No longer forced to choose between work and home, the women at MRS Micro-Work can be both mothers and professionals. They are able to spend more time with their children while remaining financially independent. Some have even been empowered to start their own spin-off companies. Despite this independent workforce, MRS Micro-Work still maintains its priorities: professionalism, teamwork, a supportive work environment, and swift response time.
MRS Micro-Work's Core Values: Concern, Transparency, Cooperation, Work-Life Balance, Empowerment
However, this model requires trust to work. Since employees can decide where they want to work, they are trusted to log their hours on a timesheet. Employees are trusted and encouraged by management to determine the most efficient way for them to complete a task. And colleagues are trusted to still support each other, no matter where they work from, just in ways that work best for them.
Sung firmly believes that this work model can and should be replicated. After all, a stable workforce is a company’s most valuable asset as companies with high turnover rates are unlikely to grow. Through the use of technology and the cloud, this gender-friendly work model addresses and supports employee needs--something all companies should strive for.
Furthermore, this model may help society as a whole to address gender expectations and stereotypes. If we are to truly challenge or even eradicate these expectations, we cannot just rely on simple legislation or technological development. These expectations are a product of culture, meaning individual values must change. And in business, a company’s values are determined by the management.
MRS Micro-Work’s central office. Rather than a compartmentalized work space divided by employee rank, MRS Micro-Work takes a more transparent approach by adopting an open floor plan. It incorporates multi functional furniture such as this movable table for work, meetings, or meals.
Working from Home? Don't Work Too Hard
After ten years of working from home, Sung has some advice for those who are still adjusting to a home office: "Don't work too hard." Of course this does not mean that Sung believes employees should slack off, rather she feels it is better to determine how to improve work efficiency. This way, there is more time to spend with family.
In addition, Sung believes it is important to learn how to draw boundaries between career and family. When work enters the home, women often must quickly and frequently switch between their many roles‑-employee, manager, wife, mother, daughter, etc. Under the pressure of work and family, it becomes easy to take out these frustrations on those at home, straining relationships with those most important to us.
Rather than trying to find a so-called "work-life balance," Sung believes in finding a “work-life blend,” interweaving life with work and work with life. There is no “right” method or trick that can be used by all families because each family dynamic and composition is unique. This is why families must discuss their boundaries upfront and come to agreements about work space and time.
Most importantly, warned Sung, "You cannot have the same attitude you did in the office when working from home." Family members should never be expected to take on another person’s stress from work. Rather than allowing the home to have the atmosphere of an office, the office should be reimagined to integrate spaces for both life and work. Over time, these spaces will settle.
Finally, as more and more people start to work from home, issues such as those related to gender may begin to emerge within the home. Sung believes it is important to maintain meaningful dialogues about these issues so work from home systems can continue to evolve to benefit both workers and companies.