Coronavirus pandemic

9 in 10 here want to continue working from home: Survey

Most of the respondents also said they save money on office wear, eating out and transport such as fuel and parking.
Most of the respondents also said they save money on office wear, eating out and transport such as fuel and parking.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Flexibility, cost savings among perks cited, though only 15% prefer to do so all the time

University administrator Suzanne Lim has been starting her mornings with an hour-long fitness routine which includes a run and some static exercises, before settling into working from home.

Before Singapore entered its circuit breaker mode, the 46-year-old had to spend the same amount of time getting ready for work before making her way to the office by 8.30am.

She is among the nine in 10 employees in Singapore who want to continue working from home in some capacity, according to a survey of 9,000 respondents from almost 90 companies.

Of these, only 15 per cent said they wanted to continue working from home all the time, while the rest preferred varying amounts of time working from home.

Many people around the world who had never considered this kind of working life also love what they have now tasted, and want to continue.

Some of the perks employees here 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 of the respondents also said they save money on office wear, eating out and transport such as fuel and parking.

Things employees have to spend more on include electric bills, Wi-Fi boosters and printers.

Mr Harpreet Singh, 37, associate director of the National University of Singapore Overseas Colleges at NUS Enterprise, said working from home has worked for him as he has greater control over and more flexibility with his time.

What he enjoys most is being able to spend time with his daughter, aged four, and son, aged one.

"I do miss interacting with colleagues face to face. But I also like the flexibility that working from home offers. A balance of both would be good," said Mr Singh.

EMPLOYERS REVIEWING OFFICE SPACE

The change in employees' expectations is making companies relook their office space requirements.

Some companies are looking at downsizing their physical office spaces and allowing more employees to work from home in the near term.

Cayman Group Holdings, for example, is considering downsizing its 600 sq ft unit at a co-working space in Tanjong Pagar.

The immigration consultancy firm, which has allowed all employees to work from home during the circuit breaker as required by the authorities, thinks it can continue with the current arrangement to save costs.

 
 
 

Specifically, it plans to let employees work from home for one to two days a week.

It will still keep a physical office space to "strengthen team bonding for better productivity and communication", said group director Dainial Sani Lim.

Meanwhile, recruiting agency Cultivar Consulting will be downsizing its operations to an industrial estate unit in Pandan Loop in July, after its Shenton Way co-working lease ends, to lower costs.

Managing director Zac Ng said that its commission-based staff will be working from home, while he and administrative staff are likely to be based at the office.

"As long as we have a place to work, the location does not matter as much, as our clients do not usually visit the office," he said.

United Overseas Bank (UOB), which is reviewing its long-term work plans, said that the days of having one's entire workforce being physically present in the office is a thing of the past.

Around 80 per cent of its employees have been working from home during the circuit breaker period.

Said UOB's head of group human resources Dean Tong: "We will take deliberate and gradual steps to bring more of our colleagues back to the office. This will be something done over months, not weeks."

Law firm Dentons Rodyk & Davidson expects to accelerate its move towards flexible work arrangements, starting with no more than 10 per cent of its workforce in the office right after the circuit breaker period ends.

"We definitely expect less time in the office to be a permanent feature of business life in the future," said the law firm's global vice-chairman and Asean chief executive Philip Jeyaretnam.

 
 
 

PRODUCTIVITY CONCERNS

One of the issues employers need to address is productivity.

The survey showed that productivity has taken a hit - two in five employees said it takes them a longer time to achieve the same amount of productivity compared with pre-Covid-19 times.

One of the main reasons given for this lower productivity is not being able to effectively communicate with senior management and not being equipped with the right tools to work from home.

Companies can make communication easier by ensuring that employees are clear on expected response times and learn how to use the company's chosen videoconferencing platform, said Mr Leong Chee Tung, co-founder and chief executive of employee engagement platform EngageRocket.

The ongoing survey by EngageRocket, which started on April 13, is conducted in partnership with the Singapore Human Resources Institute and the Institute for Human Resource Professionals.

"Many have enjoyed the flexibility that the arrangement gives," Mr Leong told The Sunday Times last week. "This whole Covid-19 situation has really opened people's eyes to the possibilities of working from home and this will change things for the corporate landscape here."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 24, 2020, with the headline '9 in 10 here want to continue working from home: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe