S'pore workers worried 4-day week will mean longer hours for them: Survey

Firms had rolled out flexible work arrangements, including a shorter work week, amid the pandemic. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Full-time employees in Singapore are worried that a four-day work week will mean longer hours for them, an online survey of over 1,000 workers showed.

But they will support their employer implementing such an arrangement as an additional rest day would benefit their mental health, according to results of a poll by American software company Qualtrics released on Tuesday (June 21).

Firms had rolled out flexible work arrangements, including a shorter work week, amid the pandemic. Ministry of Manpower employer surveys show the majority are keen to continue with these, according to Ms Gan Siow Huang, Minister of State for Manpower and Education, in Parliament last month.

The survey by Qualtrics, conducted in May, involved workers in industries ranging from information technology (IT) to retail.

It showed that almost eight in 10 workers expect to clock longer hours with a four-day work week. Six in 10 were also worried that with a shorter work week, customers would be left frustrated.

More than half thought company performance would also suffer as a result, but nine in 10 believe it would benefit their mental health.

Ms Lauren Huntington, employee experience solution strategist for South-east Asia at Qualtrics, said flexible work arrangements can be retained without hurting performance.

For example, employers can create rosters so customers will still be able to resolve their issues when they need to despite the four-day work week, she added.

Ms Huntington, an organisational psychologist by training, said employers will have to look at their talent to decide which flexible work arrangements are suitable.

She noted that 33 per cent of workers surveyed defined flexibility as having control of their own hours, 26 per cent said it was working from any location, and 19 per cent said it was being able to choose the days in which they work.

In fact, most – 64 per cent – Singapore workers said they would rather be allowed to work whenever they want over a five-day week, than have fixed hours over four work days, she added, reflecting caution over the potential trade-offs a four-day work week brings.

Employers will also need to pick the right digital tools when implementing flexible work arrangements, said Mr Lindsay Brown, general manager for the Asia-Pacific and Japan for GoTo, a firm specialising in remote work technology.

They will also need to consolidate the myriad of applications currently used.

He noted that rapid digitalisation had increased workloads for IT departments.

In a survey GoTo commissioned in February, three in 10 respondents reported facing challenges from software that was not always up to the job.

Despite most workers in Singapore returning to the office, United States software company HubSpot still allows its employees to choose their preferred work arrangement.

They can work remotely on most days, adopt a hybrid model, or turn up at the office in Anson Road.

Ms Kat Warboys, Asia-Pacific marketing director for HubSpot, said over half of its staff in Singapore are on the flexible work arrangements, four in 10 are working from home, and just 7 per cent are working in the office.

Doing away with the commute to work has benefited the staff.

"Saving up to an hour's time from the commute each day has given people a lot of time to refocus their personal life, relationships or upskilling," said Ms Warboys.

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