Singapore

Employers to ease staff back into office

They've got used to telecommuting, and have fewer concerns about productivity

More people are being allowed to return to the office on Monday, but employers are not rushing to have them back.

A range of companies - from banks to start-ups - told The Straits Times that their workers will only be eased back into the office, given that work-from-home remains the default mode amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Firms are now used to telecommuting, a trend Institute for Human Resource Professionals chief executive Mayank Parekh said was here to stay.

He cited a survey by software company EngageRocket during the circuit breaker period, in which more than 80 per cent of respondents said they saw themselves working from home more than half the time.

"Concerns over productivity and performance are diminishing with more than 70 per cent of respondents reporting that they took the same or less time to achieve the same level of productivity as pre-Covid-19," he added.

The Government announced on Wednesday that more staff would be allowed to return to workplaces as Singapore cautiously reopens the economy.

But employers have to ensure safe management measures at the workplace and ensure flexible working hours as well as staggered reporting times, among other things.

Graphic designer Jerome Koh, 30, said he has not been informed by his bosses about whether he needs to return to office but he would like to be given a choice in the matter.

"I have got used to working from home, and while I miss my colleagues, there are some days I feel more productive in the quiet of my home," he said.

NATURE OF WORK

The nature of the work, however, matters on whether staying at home remains an option.

OE Manufacturing managing director James Wong said "almost all" of his staff have returned to work, because there is heavy machinery they need to operate.

Ms Jacqueline Ye, co-founder of Delegate, a firm which helps people planning events to source venues and vendors such as food caterers, said it has "adjusted to working remotely pretty easily".

Still, she hopes to bring the staff back to the office to build team spirit and also cultivate a sense of belonging.

United Overseas Bank (UOB) group human resources head, Mr Dean Tong, said that about half of the bank's staff have returned to work in offices and branches.

UOB is "testing scenarios in which more of our people will be able to work remotely", Mr Tong said.

OCBC Bank group corporate security head Francisco John Celio said the bank will continue to take a phased approach to have more onsite staff to support the increase in economic activities safely.

DBS Bank said it expects more employees to gradually return to the office over the next few months.

Currently, about 70 per cent of its local workforce work from home, down from the 80 per cent during the circuit breaker period.

Singapore Business Federation chief executive Ho Meng Kit said members should adhere to appropriate safe management measures while Singapore Manufacturing Federation president Douglas Foo called on everyone to proceed with caution.

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