Remote working - it's become a concept we're all too familiar with. After all, it's become the norm for many workplaces over the past few months, first with Singapore in circuit breaker mode and now in Phase Two of reopening. 

That said, this concept, which may have only been implemented in some firms due to COVID-19, has been an option for many companies in Singapore long before the pandemic struck. For instance, it isn't a new concept at Workforce Singapore (WSG), where staff have been allowed to telecommute or work remotely up to four days a month since 2012, when the agency was previously known as Singapore Workforce Development Agency.

This policy continued in its place when WSG was formed in 2016. Serene Chiang, Director, Human Resource Division, Workforce Singapore, shares: "This allows staff to better manage both family and personal commitments, and has been well-received with a take-up rate of over 80% prior to COVID-19. Like many other organisations affected by COVID-19, most of our staff are working from home full time, with the exception of those who need to be on-site at the workplace to manage essential services, such as our Careers Connect centres."

She tells Priya Sunil more about how the firm equipped itself with the right work-from-home infrastructure, what the response rate has been, and more. Interview excerpts below. 

Ready infrastructure and constant communication

Having the right infrastructure is also important to allow remote working to be successful. WSG officers are equipped with a range of tools to support remote working, including VPN access, Skype for Business and camera/microphone-equipped laptops for videoconferencing. We also provide resources to educate our staff on remote working processes, such as through step-by-step walkthroughs on meeting set-up and virtual meeting etiquette, for example, so that they are better equipped to use such tools.

New ways of engagement

In addition to expanding our remote working toolkit, we have also come up with innovative ways to engage both our staff and stakeholders. To sustain staff engagement, we held our first virtual “town hall” session in March which was streamed live on Workplace by Facebook. We kept up the momentum in April and May by having more ad-hoc virtual engagement activities, either at the organisational or departmental level, and have emphasised to our leaders and managers on the need to consistently engage with staff as all of us adjust to this different way of working. 

Support for employees

Based on an internal survey conducted in April, around four in five staff who responded shared they were coping well with the current work-from-home arrangement. To fully support our employees throughout this period, we reminded supervisors to be more sensitive to the circumstances of their staff and to exercise flexibility in their work schedules so that staff can better juggle home and work duties while working from home. We also encourage staff to stay active and healthy and take this time to build stronger relationships with their family. We have regularly sent out EDMs with work-from-home tips and reminders to educate and inform staff and help them manage the need to balance work and family. Additionally, WSG has made available professional counsellors to provide assistance to staff who might be facing stress and anxiety during this period.

Moving forward

Even as we move into Phase Two, the majority of our staff will continue to work from home as long as their duties allow them to. We will continue to engage our staff regularly at the organisational and divisional level, and will put in place a safe management system to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all our staff in the midst of the COVID 19 outbreak. COVID-19 has been and will be an ongoing learning curve for all of us including WSG, as we continuously find and explore new ways of engaging staff and carrying out our work.

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