Financial institutions need to focus more on staff well-being, adopt new tech in post-Covid-19 world: Study

The study comes as the pandemic has profoundly changed how people live and work around the globe. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Good practices like focusing more on employees' well-being, increasing work flexibility and adopting technologies to streamline operations can help banks and financial institutions prepare for the next pandemic, a study has found.

The Study on Future Workplaces - commissioned as part of an ongoing collaboration between the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the Association of Banks in Singapore's (ABS) Return to Onsite Operations Taskforce - hopes to guide financial institutions in planning ahead and safely navigating the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

It comes as the coronavirus outbreak has profoundly changed how people live and work around the globe.

The workplace redesign strategies presented in the study - which involved five months of research - are aimed at helping those offering essential financial services build resilience in their operations, ABS said on Tuesday (March 23).

ABS chairman and OCBC Bank group chief executive Samuel Tsien said banks here have adapted their operations quickly over the past year to cope with the pandemic, but the longer-term impact of the outbreak "on social behaviours and workplace norms is not yet fully known and understood".

The study, which covers areas such as the future of work and crowd management, was put together by a team comprising banks and experts from other relevant industries, he added.

"While it is not intended to be a set of policy guidelines, it is a set of best practices for banks to future-proof their workplaces to ensure the safety of our customers and staff as well as to ensure the continuity of our operations."

One suggestion involves integrating essential safe management measures into the future workplace, from maintaining safe distancing markers in public areas to having allocated restrooms for different teams.

Another recommendation is to create a business resilience plan, which includes allowing employees who can work remotely to do so and having upskilling programmes that produce more versatile workers.

The study, conducted by a consortium of consultants led by real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, also took in inputs from an expert panel on managing infectious diseases and designing workplaces for health and safety.

The experts included Singapore's chief health scientist Tan Chorh Chuan, National Centre for Infectious Diseases senior consultant Kalisvar Marimuthu and the National University of Singapore's School of Design and Environment dean Lam Khee Poh.

Mr Ong Chong Tee, deputy managing director for financial supervision at MAS, said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has catalysed a rethink of traditional workplace models."

He urged financial institutions to consider the recommended workplace redesign strategies, which would help prepare them "for any situations in future that may require safe distancing and work-from-home arrangements".

Some financial institutions have outlined plans for workplace transformation.

UOB's head of group human resources Dean Tong says the bank is accelerating the transformation of workspaces towards open office layouts and "facilities that enable agile working and deeper collaboration".

"This includes moving away from assigned seating to providing our people with an array of workspaces such as conference rooms, work bistros, huddle rooms and focus rooms that are designed to suit the different needs of individual and team work," he said.

DBS is implementing, among other initiatives, flexible work arrangements such as a formal job-sharing scheme which will enable two employees to share the responsibilities of one full-time role.

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