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The Biggest Work from Home trends in Singapore to look out for in 2021

Earlier this year, Bloomberg named Singapore as the ‘Best Place to Be During Covid’ – it’s a unique title that Singapore has received with some degree of pride and hopefulness. Recognised as the world’s second-most globally connected country amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the island state has showcased its ability to adapt its workforce to sudden disruptions and keep the ongoing crisis in-check. With the third wave of Covid-19 infections brought under relative control, one can’t help but wonder if this signals the return of regularised on-site office hours and traditional office space. In this article, we’ll be outlining the biggest Work-from-Home trends Singapore has seen in the past year. 

Professionals want remote work to stay

According to tech company, Lark and online market research firm, Milieu Insight, 94% of professionals managers and executives (PMEs) want flexible work arrangements to remain. Even at the height of the pandemic in 2020, the resident workforce proved capable of adjusting to new remote work arrangements. Both employers and employees reported an increase in productivity between April to June 2020. 

However, only ‘1 in 5’ of survey respondents indicated that they were ‘very satisfied’ with current remote work arrangements. Most working professionals in Singapore also reported an increase in stress levels, mental health woes, distractions and working hours. This suggests that while there is a clear preference and trend towards flexible work, remote employees need to feel adequately supported in terms of resources and company culture in order to sustain their performance in the long-run. 

Access to a more diverse talent pool

Remote work has opened up more recruitment opportunities for companies. Telecommuting and collaborative tech tools means that companies can effectively manage a diverse, global talent pool. A diversity of voices from employees of different backgrounds and bases also means that company perspectives are set to be less dominated by a select few. Instead, communication and the expression of opinions at the workplace are likely to be more democratised. 

As echoed by Lynn Dang, Microsoft Singapore’s HR lead, ‘There’s this idea now that when we move into the future of work, one, by tapping into more skills in the workplace, we can build more diverse workplaces and two, be able to include more voices to ensure that more voices are heard so that you’re not having a dominant voice’ 

Rise of telecommuting

During the 2020 circuit breaker, about 80% of the resident workforce in Singapore relied on telecommuting for work. After more than a year of the pandemic, online meetings and collaborative e-documents have become a norm in the typical workday. PMEs use remote collaboration tools ‘for up to half of their day: video meetings (94%), file search (90%) and messaging (80%)’

This trend is not an isolated phenomenon in Singapore. Microsoft also reported a marked increase in online communication and collaboration. Based on data from Microsoft Teams, workers were found to have double their time on Teams meetings and send ‘45 percent more chats per week and 42 percent more chats per person after hours, with chats per week still on the rise’. Additionally, there has been a ‘66 percent increase in the number of people working on documents’.

Office rents set to decline

As businesses make the switch towards flexible work systems, office rents in Singapore were projected to decrease by 5% in 2021. With a good number of companies making the decisive switch to hybrid work systems, the demand for office spaces has decreased considerably. For example, HP Singapore introduced work-from-home policies last year, while Mizuho and Sompo Insurance made drastic cuts to their respective office space this year. 

Instead of long-term leases, more companies are seeking to reduce spare office capacity, refine remote work arrangements, and explore the option of converting traditional offices into flexible workspaces. IKEA recently revamped its offices to fulfill Safe Management Measures (SMMs) while providing its employees with the flexibility of returning to conducive workspaces optimised for remote work. These changes have afforded businesses like IKEA with better scalability and nimbleness which inadvertently disadvantages the pre-pandemic model of traditional office space.

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