Default must still be work from home amid Covid-19 pandemic: Lawrence Wong

The task force is still reviewing the work-from-home arrangement and may modify the rules, with feedback from employers. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Work-from-home arrangements will continue in order to guard against potential Covid-19 transmission.

Employers should continue to keep this as the default arrangement unless employees have a demonstrable need to return to the workplace, such as to use specialised equipment, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong at a virtual multi-ministry press conference yesterday.

He noted that working from home has been beneficial on numerous fronts, such as reducing congestion on public transport and minimising the number of people coming together in the workplace.

This, Mr Wong said, has helped to keep community transmission at bay.

The task force is reviewing the work-from-home arrangement and may modify the rules, following appeals and feedback from employers who have requested more flexibility, said Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force tackling the coronavirus pandemic.

"We've received these appeals, we are still studying the matter and to see if there may be some change or some modification to the work-from-home requirement," Mr Wong explained.

He added that some individuals have said the arrangement has increased their productivity, while others explained that the home environment is not sufficiently conducive for work as being together with their colleagues actually helps to boost productivity.

"But I should say that even if we were to allow some modification or adjustments, we would still like to see, as far as possible, a high degree of people working from home," Mr Wong said.

The majority of employees here have been working from home since the circuit breaker started in early April. A report in May showed that in a survey of 9,000 respondents from almost 90 companies, nine in 10 employees want to continue working from home.

Some of the perks employees have enjoyed include not having to commute to and from work, more flexibility with their time, and greater control over work-life balance, according to the survey.

Most respondents also said they save money on office wear, eating out and transport expenses such as fuel and parking. However, they have to spend more on electricity bills, Wi-Fi boosters and printers.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2020, with the headline Default must still be work from home amid Covid-19 pandemic: Lawrence Wong. Subscribe