Flexi-work becoming more common in S'pore despite shift to living with Covid-19

The broader adoption of hybrid work arrangements here mirrors the shifts seen globally. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Flexible work arrangements have become more common among organisations in Singapore despite the country's transition to living with Covid-19.

Many employers have chosen to continue riding the work-from-home momentum, allowing staff to operate remotely for part of the week.

All employees here have been able to return to the workplace since April 26, alongside the easing of other Covid-19 measures, including group size limits.

Aside from large corporates, the public service has also been a leader in adopting flexible workplace arrangements, with the likes of the Auditor-General's Office and the Government Technology Agency allowing employees to work from home some days of the week.

While flexible work is most closely associated with work from home, it includes other arrangements, such as staggered work hours and job sharing.

Other than telecommuting, public service agencies also allow some staff to stagger their work hours, such as starting earlier or later than the usual time.

This flexibility is seen not only to benefit those with caregiving duties, but could also help to reduce peak-hour traffic congestion.

The broader adoption of hybrid work arrangements here mirrors the shifts seen globally.

Financial institutions such as Citi, HSBC and UBS have flexible work plans.

Citi Singapore, for one, will allow most staff to work remotely for up to two days a week by the third quarter of the year, with some teams already adopting such flexible arrangements. The American bank employs about 8,500 full-time and contract staff in Singapore.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said at an event last week that the Government would like more companies to adopt the Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements, which includes having a clear policy on how staff can ask for such arrangements to be put in place.

Workers have noted that telecommuting has contributed to much better work-life harmony for them, said Dr Tan, adding that helping people achieve this harmony is one way in which employers can foster inclusive and progressive workplaces where employees feel valued and empowered.

The White Paper on women's development released earlier this year said that the Government may introduce a new set of guidelines by 2024 that will require employers to consider staff requests for flexible work arrangements fairly and properly.

The Ministry of Manpower has said that the guidelines will establish the norm that it is acceptable to request flexible work arrangements, while maintaining the employers' prerogative to decide, taking into account business needs.

Consultations are expected to be held before the guidelines are finalised.

In the meantime, the discourse on remote working and flexible work arrangements in Singapore remains fluid, with issues such as tax treatment, employers' obligations towards remote workers and employee mental health to be addressed.

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