By Michael Switow
As Singapore eases its “circuit breaker,” the term used here instead of “lockdown,” the ways of working for most employees in the nation since the beginning of the coronavirus have not changed. Project managers, administrators, marketers, and even C-suite leaders continue to carve out space on their dining room tables and couches for Zoom calls, team meetings, and sales pitches.
Only employees who require specialised equipment or who need to be in the office to “fulfil legal obligations” like finalising a contract are allowed to go to the workplace. The vast majority of white-collar professionals must continue working from home.
“We’re realising that we can be just as productive at home as we have been in the office,” Singapore Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, who is also co-chair of Singapore’s COVID-19 multi-ministerial task force, wrote in a Facebook post. “Many employers and managers will need to adjust their mindsets to this new normal. It’s no longer about having all your staff physically present at work.”
Even if staff need to go to the office, Wong adds, employers must consider if they are needed on-site every day. In addition, companies must offer staggered work hours, ensure social distancing in the office, and provide high hygiene standards and good ventilation.
Wong is hardly the only person rethinking the office place. Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey has told employees they can continue working from home “forever,” whilst Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg expects up to half of the social media giant’s employees will work remotely in future.
Some companies are better prepared for this shift than others.
One-quarter of CISCO’s global workforce was already working remotely even before COVID-19. Yet in Japan, three-quarters of companies surveyed by YouGov prior to the pandemic said they were not ready for remote work. A similar percentage of companies in India believe remote working will hurt productivity, according to an EY survey on resilience planning.
However, a closer look at the data shows productivity does not have to drop. Take the case of ThoughtWorks. The software consultancy says many of its teams in China actually achieved higher levels of efficiency once remote working became a necessity. In this edition of HRO Today APAC, we look at how Asia-Pacific businesses are adapting to these new times, as well as insights on what the future holds.