Singapore

Lighter traffic, fewer commuters as work from home kicks in

F&B businesses near workplaces feel immediate impact of lower footfall

Peak-hour road traffic was lighter, there were fewer commuters on trains, and lunchtime crowds were significantly smaller than usual for a working day yesterday, the second weekday after Singapore's return to phase two of its reopening.

When The Straits Times visited office hot spots in Raffles Place and Buona Vista and at Marina Bay Financial Centre during the morning rush hour and at lunchtime, the areas were generally deserted.

With companies defaulting to work-from-home arrangements under tightened Covid-19 measures, most eateries in these areas had no queues during peak meal periods. Only Toast Box at Marina Bay Link Mall had a constant stream of customers and a queue of up to 10 people at any one time.

Following a spike in community transmissions of Covid-19, stricter measures, such as a cap of five people at social gatherings, kicked in last Saturday and will be in place until May 30.

At Raffles Place and Marina Bay Link Mall, a steady stream of office workers exited the train station, but few were congregating at the open spaces outside.

Some businesses responded immediately to the tightened measures.

Operations executive Ms Serena Lai, 44, who has been in her current job for only a week, said her company immediately adhered to the new guidelines.

"I go in only on alternate days... but my colleagues who were going in on alternate weeks previously now all work from home," she said.

DISRUPTIVE

Some companies had been operating at below 50 per cent capacity and did not need to make further changes, while some businesses and individuals found the curbs disruptive.

"You need to adapt to these changes without time to make plans," said a 37-year-old consultant who gave his name as S.J. Phua. He said he will now work from the office for four days a month, down from 10 days a month.

Some activities such as research and development are office- or laboratory-bound, and employees involved continue to go to their workplaces regularly.

Ms Amanpreet Kaur, 34, a research associate at a biomedical research company at Biopolis, said she continues to work a five-day week at the workplace as she does hands-on laboratory work.

Food and beverage businesses have felt the immediate impact of lower footfall, with several eateries ST spoke to facing a significant dip in customers and revenue.

At bakery and cafe chain Cedele at The Metropolis in Buona Vista, sales have dropped by 10 per cent to 20 per cent amid the tightened measures, and the outlet has started reducing its manpower.

Ms Chew Lee Ching, a vice-president of the Association of Small & Medium Enterprises, said SMEs find it hard to adjust to sudden changes, but understand the need to do so.

"There have been a lot of stops and starts, and a lot of adjustments to be made," she said. "The greater concern... (is) a complete lockdown."

She hopes it will not be too long before measures are eased.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING: ELEANOR YEO, SHERLYN SIM & GABRIELLE NG

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