SINGAPORE - Work arrangements remain in a state of flux as the pandemic wears on and authorities continue to uncover safety breaches at workplaces but companies can manage fatigue by staying agile and prioritising staff well-being, say experts.
They noted that firms have largely grown familiar with remote work in the past 20 months or so although some still struggle with it.
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said on Monday (Oct 4) that the failure to implement work-from-home arrangements for staff who were able to do so is a common breach of safe management rules.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has conducted nearly 45,000 workplace inspections since March last year.
"The vast majority have been compliant with the safe management measures, but there were breaches," said Dr Tan in a written reply to a parliamentary question by Workers' Party MP He Ting Ru.
Dr Tan said 140 stop-work orders, 247 remedial orders and 399 composition fines were issued to 776 companies for breaches of safe management measures.
Other common breaches included failure to wear masks and not keeping one metre between individuals.
"Companies with serious lapses were asked to cease operations until rectifications were completed," said Dr Tan, adding that firms are not notified before inspections.
Experts said companies can rethink their policies to make it easier for staff to work from home.
Singapore National Employers Federation executive director Sim Gim Guan said firms should factor in lessons learnt over the course of the pandemic.
"Employers may need to adjust... operations to adapt to the prevailing condition. This is more apparent in sectors such as F&B and retail as the changes in safe management requirements affect not just back-end but also frontline staff."
He added that flexible work arrangements and initiatives to promote mental well-being can support employees' work-life balance and help staff be more resilient.
Singapore Human Resources Institute president Low Peck Kem said it is not good enough for companies to simply cope with remote work arrangements: "It has been so prolonged that it is becoming a cultural shift and it is no longer just about managing the transitional period of inconvenience."
Firms can explore a hybrid workforce, which integrates remote and onsite work, she added.
Mr Derrick Teo, chief executive of human resource consultancy Elitez Group, said firms can engage staff regularly through townhall meetings or one-to-one sessions.
Employers who can't adopt a full work-from-home set-up should avoid creating resentful staff, he added, as it lowers morale and in turn, productivity and profits.
"Returning to the office may be inevitable for some employees but it's important to give them a channel to voice their concerns."
Mr Ling Ting Ming, chief executive of robotics company Otsaw said frontline staff in sales and marketing have increasingly pivoted to do product demos over Zoom as the pandemic has put a pause on some in-person appointments.
"Whatever works for us, we will do it, bearing in mind the safety of employees. That gives confidence to staff that they are taken care of," said Mr Ling, who is also an Association of Small and Medium Enterprises council member.
Singapore Manufacturing Federation president Douglas Foo said technology has transformed the future of work.
"Sensors can monitor and collect data and not everyone needs to be on the shop floor now," noted Mr Foo, adding that segregating the workplace into different zones and staggering hours have also helped.
Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association executive director Ang Wee Seng said companies are also adjusting to situational changes, such as through periodic antigen rapid tests for staff and having a fast internal reporting system.
He added: "There will be fatigue in the long run, but in general, companies understand ... the need for prudence, particularly when it comes to re-opening safely."