Is Singapore ready for a virtual workforce?

The Government and employers here may need to revisit the idea of a virtual workforce, where digitally connected workers are able to work remotely from anywhere.

Recent surveys in the United States and Europe show a growing digital nomad population, as young professionals who are digitally savvy leverage technology and collaborative online tools to work remotely.

This allows teams to be based in different locations, including in different countries, and still collaborate on work.

We are in a new age.

Previously, people worked from 8am to 5pm in a cubicle from Mondays to Fridays and took their coffee breaks at Starbucks.

Now, they work 24/7, and Starbucks may be their "office".

This may also be a way to keep older workers who are tech-savvy in the workforce longer.

We are in a new age. Previously, people worked from 8am to 5pm in a cubicle from Mondays to Fridays and took their coffee breaks at Starbucks. Now, they work 24/7, and Starbucks may be their "office".

Increasing life expectancy may force people to work longer.

While it may be true that only a small percentage of employees who are above 62 are tech-savvy, this percentage is going to rise.

We should leverage this resource.

The World Economic Forum calls flexible work and virtual teams "one of the biggest drivers of transformation" in the workplace.

It is a global phenomenon and the future of work, so we need to ask some vital questions.

Is Singapore ready for this transformation, and are we prepared to embrace it?

Are our laws ready to tackle a virtual workforce?

Are human resource managers ready to deal with such workers, whose work expectations may be totally different from the behind-the-desk, "8-to-5" employee?

Matthew Ong Koon Lock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2017, with the headline 'Is Singapore ready for a virtual workforce?'. Print Edition | Subscribe