To add to this trend, several initiatives have been introduced in the past couple of years, including a playbook on hybrid workplaces, a tripartite advisory on mental being, and an after-hours communication policy template for employers.
On 11 January (Tuesday), Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) responded to various parliamentary questions related to the future of hybrid work arrangements.
While addressing these questions on behalf of MOM, Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang, acknowledged that the pandemic has catalysed a transformation of workplace practices. Despite so, businesses have adapted well and successfully implemented work-from-home arrangements. MOM further encouraged SMEs to tap on Government grants, such as the Productivity Solution Grant, to adopt suitable cloud-based digital solutions that can enable productive remote work arrangements for their employees.
In 2020, three in four employees worked in firms that provided some form of remote working. However, the number of hours spent on remote work itself would vary depending on businesses’ and workers’ needs, which MOM does not track.
In response to questions on the possibility of work-from-home (WFH) becoming a permanent feature and any introduction of WFH legislations, MOM "expects work-from-home arrangements to become a more mainstream option". The majority of employers said that they would allow their workers to continue to work from home for at least a quarter of the time, the ministry noted. At the same time, the minister also indicated that MOM will not rush into hasty legislation that creates workplace rigidity and impedes economic recovery.
Instead, she noted, MOM encourages a more inclusive workplace flexibility approach. As previously highlighted by the 2019 Citizens’ Panel on Work-Life Harmony, different sectors will have diverse needs, such as the needs of frontline workers differing significantly from office workers. Work-from-home is not possible for the work that frontline workers perform. It is, therefore, more critical that a whole-of-society approach be taken, to help more workers to access appropriate workplace flexibilities, including flexi-load, flexi-time, and flexi-place.
Minister Gan stated: "The tripartite partners have been working on doing so through outreach and promotion of the Tripartite Advisory and Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements."
She went on to share various initiatives and resources to support employers in implementing work-from-home arrangements.
As one of the examples mentioned, the Alliance for Action on Work-Life Harmony (AfA on WLH) was formed last year, involving community stakeholders such as employers, employees, and HR professionals. Besides the Communities of Practice (CoP) for the Food Services, Manufacturing, and Finance sectors respectively, the HR profession also came together to develop a Playbook on Hybrid Workplaces through the Institute of Human Resource Professionals. MOM is furthering this ground-up effort by growing a community of Work-Life Ambassadors to champion and support these efforts at their workplaces.
Even as work-from-home arrangements stabilise, the minister noted that it is "mindful of the risks from blurred work-life boundaries."
To protect employees' mental health, the Tripartite Advisory on Mental Well-being was introduced in 2020. With this advisory, one of the key recommendations was for employers to set reasonable expectations of after-hours work communications, such as not requiring employees to respond to non-urgent work-related messages and emails after-hours. The AfA on Work-Life Harmony has also developed an after-hours communication policy template to make it easier for companies to establish and communicate progressive after-hours communications practices.
Concluding this parliamentary response, Minister Gan said the Government will continue to work with Tripartite Partners to support the provision of flexible work arrangements in a sustainable manner.
Following the parliamentary response, she said in a Facebook post: "It is through partnerships and knowledge-building that we can support the provision of flexible work arrangements in a sustainable manner and strengthen work-life harmony in Singapore."
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