Three reasons why some Singapore employees love working from home

(Clockwise from top left) Ms Vanessa Manichon, Ms Malavika Menon, Ms Angel Ng, Mr Goh Wu Chong, Ms Tulasi Panneerselvam and Ms Rochelle Ong share their thoughts on working from home. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF VANESSA MANICHON, MALAVIKA MENON, FUNDING SOCIETIES, GOH WU CHONG, DESMOND WEE, ROCHELLE ONG

REASON 1: No long commute, more time for fun, rest

Working from home for account executive Goh Wu Chong, 30, means sleeping in for one more hour in the morning and jumping straight into gaming after work.

Mr Goh, who works at public relations agency Gloo, has been working from home for about six months.

He usually spent 1½ hours a day preparing for work and commuting between his home in Hougang and his office at Odeon Towers in City Hall on the bus and MRT. Not commuting means having more time for tasks and leisure after work, he said.

At first, he had to contend with issues such as not being able to meet his colleagues in person, setting up a proper home office, and learning how to "switch off" after work.

"I took small steps such as avoiding my bedroom after work hours as it is my 'office'. I also stash away my work laptop and accessories after work to help shift into an off-work mindset," he said.

Account executive Goh Wu Chong says he has learnt to "switch off" after work hours by avoiding his bedroom (above) as it doubles as his office. PHOTO: COURTESY OF GOH WU CHONG

With regular Zoom meetings, he "grew accustomed to calling colleagues to check in about work".

His company has found working from home to be a sustainable arrangement and downsized the co-working space that it is renting.

The office is now being used for storage, and Mr Goh said there are no plans to go back to it for now.

For Web design firm FirstCom digital marketing lead Rochelle Ong, 27, saving time from not having to commute to work has been the best part of working from home.

"I appreciate the additional rest time that I'm able to get," said Ms Ong, who used to travel between her home in Serangoon and her office in Kallang Way for about 1hr 15min each day on the MRT and bus.

"There are no direct transport options to get to my office building, so I need about a little over an hour to and fro," she said.

"At the start... I found myself working longer hours while at home due to the blurred line between work and life," she said.

"As I got more accustomed to it, I am now able to better juggle work and life happening concurrently."

REASON 2: Bonding with family, friends

One benefit of working from home for data scientist Malavika Menon, 26, is getting to spend more time with her family.

Ms Menon, who works at Gojek, now bonds with them by pottering around the kitchen, watching Netflix and helping out with household chores. "I miss the time when we were all at home," she said of the circuit breaker period between April and June when most of Singapore worked from home.

Before the pandemic, Ms Menon, who builds recommendation models and engines for Gojek's GoFood products in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, travelled every five or six weeks to neighbouring countries for research. Each trip would last about a week.

Now, she relishes her time at home, whipping up treats such as plum jam and Nepalese dumplings in the kitchen.

"We used to go out to eat often, especially on weekends," she said, but family meals at home let her bond with her parents and her 24-year-old sister.

Spending more time with family, colleagues and friends is also one of the benefits of working from home for Ms Angel Ng, 27, sales team leader at crowd-investing firm Funding Societies.

She makes daily calls outside of work to her colleagues and friends to find out how they are spending their time, such as what they have cooked for the day, she said.

The calls are also a way for them to keep one another's spirits up amid the pandemic, she said.

To help staff get a better work-life balance, Ms Ng's company provides a budget for teams to meet for lunch, with a cap of five people, to help those who may feel isolated working from home.

REASON 3: I am more productive

Working from home helps Ms Tulasi Panneerselvam, senior creative at PBA Robotics, get into her creative zone.

"Sometimes, to help myself focus, I like to blast my music. That's something I can't do in the office," said Ms Tulasi, 29, who works on the firm's corporate visuals, such as logos.

She counts a campaign promoting Sunburst UV Bots - robots deployed to disinfect surfaces and thus help prevent the spread of infectious diseases, viruses and bacteria - that the company launched amid the pandemic as one of her proudest achievements in her two years of working at the firm.

"It's one of the biggest campaigns I've worked on, and I managed to do it remotely," she said.

Structure is another reason why she feels more productive at home as meetings are planned ahead.

"If I have a meeting between 1pm and 2pm, I can spend time afterwards, say, between 3pm and 6pm, to focus on my designs," she said.

The office environment, with more people around, can be slightly disruptive, she added.

But she does miss being able to just drop by her colleagues' desks to get the information she needs for work. "I'll have to e-mail them instead," she added.

Being at home is also better for Ms Vanessa Manichon, 32, chief of staff at start-up Delegate. By not having to commute from her home in Punggol to Raffles Place, she uses the hour she saves to be more productive while working at home.

Delegate is an online marketplace that helps people who are planning events source venues and vendors such as food caterers.

"My home office set-up is also a lot more ergonomic with my monitor screen and keyboard," she said, comparing it with the laptop she uses at the co-working space.

"One thing I also truly appreciate is the ability to control the temperature at home. Not having the centralised air-conditioning system blasting down... is a big plus for me," she added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 27, 2020, with the headline Three reasons why some Singapore employees love working from home. Subscribe