Hey, you’re muted. I can’t see your screen. It’s the 10th time you had to remind that colleague who is speaking away without realizing he is muted for the past 30 seconds. As Singapore learns to live with COVID-19, it’s no longer a surprise when a colleague is suddenly absent from work and informing others in the department to do an ART to nib any possible silent transmission going on. A study by the Institute of Policy Studies revealed that up to 52 per cent of workers feel that flexi-work arrangements should be the new norm.
WANT: Good to have for some, but not a must-have
For those who live relatively far away from their workplaces, working from home meant having more time to sleep in, and saving transportation costs – regardless of the kind of transportation. Not to mention, for those working in the central business district, food cost can be cut as much as 50% when one dabaos from the mixed veg rice stall in the neighbourhood.
In fact, SingSaver, a personal finance comparison site found that working remotely helped workers save up to $400 – $600 per month. I know some will be quick to point out the increased utility bills and need to purchase WFH equipment. But in general, more rest for the mind and the pocket – who wouldn’t like that, right?
Sociopaths are also lobbying for everyone to get back to the office. Experts point out that the absence of face-to-face communication leads to unnecessary miscommunications or misunderstandings as we often can’t discern what is the complete communication – in terms of tone, expression, and body language. With more miscommunications, it would have a negative impact on trust and camaraderie of colleagues.
Research has shown that the lack of social connection increases health risks which is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and loneliness/social isolation is twice as harmful to physical and mental health as compared to obesity. Yikes.
NEED: Urgently needed flexibility
Children & Elderly Parents
Throughout our lives, our roles evolve. Some of us become parents, and most of us have elderly parents to support. Babies and the elderly are more fragile in a sense and need more care and attention. Parents naturally worry about their kids who might fall ill – who would take care of the kids, is their kid coping well with the illness and recovering well. These thoughts distract parents from their work, which massively reduces productivity.
Psychologists observe that new mothers are especially affected when they must manage the emotional, physical, and mental demands of juggling motherhood with work. Flexi-work arrangements give new mothers some buffer to manage her new-born and work in a way that works best for them, without overly compromising her new-born or her job. Dads are increasingly expected to pull their weight in parenthood too, which can stress them out as well.
Some parents also appreciate the ability to work from home, as they can spend more time with their children – even little pockets of time in between meetings count. When parents spend too much time at work, it affects their bond with their children. This is most crucial for parents with young children – they would miss out the milestones of their kids and regret it later in life.
For those with elderly parents, as a person ages, they come frailer and require more medical appointments to ensure they are ageing well. As their children, we would want to accompany them to the polyclinic and hospital, to stay updated about their condition, and to ensure that nothing happens to them to and from the place. That could easily take up half a working day, or an entire day depending on the appointments the healthcare institutions are handling.
Persons with disabilities (PWDs)
PWDs have found flexi-work arrangements extremely useful in the past two years. Jobs are seeing lowered barriers to entry and new roles are being made available in growing sectors such as logistics and healthcare.
PWDs aged 15 – 64 years old employed increased from 28.2 per cent (about 9,000 PWDs) to 30.1 per cent in the past two years. SG Enable works actively with social service agencies to provide opportunities for PWDs with higher support needs.
How does flexi-work arrangements help PWDs?
PWDs, including the visually impaired, faces many challenges with travelling to work and finding their way around the workplace. This is something that many of us take for granted. By being able to work from home, it reduces inconvenience for PWDs.
PWDs who may need specialised assistive software or hardware also do not need to replicate the same set up at the workplace. A trade-off involved in this, is the reduced opportunities for PWDs to interact with their colleagues.
A multitude of programmes are available to employers in Singapore to hire more inclusively. For example, the SG Enable Open Door Programme helps to defray costs of offering workplace modifications and redesigning job scopes for PWDs.
The government’s Enabling Employment Credit also provides employers who employ PWDs with wage offsets of up to 30 per cent for Singaporean PWD employees with earnings below $4,000 per month.
Interestingly, a US study found that amidst the ‘Great Resignation’, more than half of the workers would quit than return to the office. Even if works choose to stay on because of various circumstances, they may find themselves feeling disengaged from being forced to work in office instead of having the option to work from home, or in a hybrid manner.
A young Singaporean concerned about issues workers face. As humans, we spend a third of our lives sleeping and recharging, and another third for our personal life, and the last third at work (based on a 24-hr distribution). That’s why we should pay attention to issues surrounding work.