Will air-conditioning bring Singapore workers back to the office?


Flexible work arrangement (FWA) or flex-work arrangement has proliferated across many workplaces in Singapore due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been much debate in recent months locally if flexi-work arrangements should be maintained when Covid-19 becomes truly endemic.  

Air-Conditioning in American Offices 

In the United States, office workers are preferring to work in offices for the air-conditioning — in particular, those industrial strength air-conditioners that are powerful enough make you go “brrrr.”  

Imagine getting all sweaty and uncomfortable in the American subway on your way to work… It is just unpleasant, especially for client-facing workers who must look presentable and avoid looking sweaty, wet, or even soaked. Dark coloured or light coloured clothes, the sweat would show.  

It is especially bad during summers in America, where the heat can get unbearable for the office workers during the day.  

Singapore’s all-year summer 

In Singapore, we do not even have seasons per-se — we have hot and humid weather all year round. Thankfully, the air-conditioning in the MRTs here in Singapore is cool enough for me to cool down after a walk from my house to the station. But still, I feel that it is true to some extent that air-conditioning would attract the office worker back to the office. 

Most of June and July 2022 was unbearably hot — we are bearing the consequences of global warming, where temperatures are becoming more erratic. Turning the air-conditioning at home is not exactly the best option when we are facing rising inflation and therefore utility tariffs.  

My utility bills for June 2022 gave me a shock of my life. The total was close to S$200 (the usual was around S$100 to S$120 for my household) — I sat my family down and we brainstormed what might be the reasons behind that. We tried to find ways to reduce our electricity usage — for example, turning on the air-conditioning only when the heat is unbearable at night, and trying to use fans instead of air-conditioning when working from home.  

It worked — my July 2022 bill was much better, clocking less than S$90, with electricity usage being drastically reduced. I was working more from the office and less at home. I guess that some overestimation of usage by SP services during June played a part, but the family’s efforts in reducing electricity usage helped too.  

Air-Conditioning? Count me in! 

If I did not have to fork out a cent to enjoy air-conditioning, I am in for it anytime — my office’s air-conditioning is strong and pleasant, and I can really work in peace amidst Singapore’s sweltering weather that sometimes really go crazy and ‘bake’ all of us here in Singapore.  

Of course, working in the office also has disadvantages — more expensive food (especially in the CBD area) and transportation costs from taking public transport (or even private-hire vehicles). But then, we can make small adjustments to other habits — like choosing cheaper food options, staying disciplined in expenditure to make up for it.  

A recent news article updated that electricity tariffs would rise again because of Russia’s maintenance of their gas pipes, which would affect liquified natural gas (LNG) prices, and therefore electricity generation costs as LNG is the key natural resource used to produce electricity. 

Experts have already cautioned that Singapore’s weather can become more erratic in the coming years, with more frequent heatwaves. 


Would air-conditioning bring you back to the office?


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About Author

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.