Singapore

Most companies expect hybrid work arrangements to stay

Singapore eases more curbs, more workers can return to office

Singapore eased more Covid-19 restrictions today, giving companies the green light to bring more staff back to the office and doubling capacity limits for events with fully vaccinated attendees.

Even so, most employers - including Singapore's largest, the Government - expect hybrid working arrangements to be a permanent feature of the post-pandemic world.

And event organisers told The Straits Times that it will take some time for most large events to pick up, given the long lead time needed to plan them.

This comes as Singapore works to open its borders for business travellers, with pilot travel arrangements under discussion.

Two weeks ago, the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic announced that working from home would no longer be the default from today.

Instead, up to 50 per cent of employees able to work remotely would be allowed back to the office.

Capacity limits for events such as conferences, live performances and spectator sports will increase, with up to 1,000 attendees permitted if all are fully vaccinated.

Taking one's temperature before entering a restaurant, mall or other public venue will also no longer be required.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, a Public Service Division spokesman said it is working towards "supporting greater work flexibility" for staff in the post-pandemic world, with hybrid work becoming a more common arrangement where the job allows.

"This will go towards meeting the needs of officers and, at the same time, balancing organisational needs," she said.

Most companies and their staff seem to have found a rhythm to make hybrid work possible, after more than a year of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Law firm Dentons Rodyk plans to allow employees a fixed number of work-from-home days each week, with more flexible reporting times and may make social and cohesion activities mandatory.

"This is to ensure the culture of our firm - one of familial cohesion and camaraderie - does not erode with the hybrid work model," said Mr Loh Kia Meng, its chief operating officer.

Other companies, including DBS Bank and Certis, said they are redesigning workspaces to reflect a growing priority - collaboration.

But both acknowledged the positives of working from home, with DBS saying it plans to give all employees the flexibility to work from home up to 40 per cent of the time.

One thing to keep in mind is that employees will likely have varying preferences for returning to the office, observed Mr Lee Yun-Han, director of human capital consulting at Deloitte South-east Asia.

"Companies need to have flexibility in processes and policies to cater to both ends of the spectrum," he said.

Ms Jaya Dass, managing director for Singapore and Malaysia at recruitment company Randstad Singapore, said if spurring collaboration is cited as the main reason for having workers return to the office, working styles should be redesigned to reflect this.

"Employees who come back to the office only to find that they are reverting to old ways of working will be curious to find out what collaboration means to them," she added.

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