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Singapore – Companies urges to introduce flexible work arrangements to enhance productivity

26 February 2014

Despite the Singapore Government’s efforts to increase work-life harmony by promoting flexible work arrangements, business leaders, particularly in the financial services sector, are yet to be convinced that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. 

The final chapter of the Randstad World of Work Report 2013/14 released today reveals just 20% of organisations intend to hire more people on flexible working arrangements to combat talent scarcity in the next five years. This is significantly lower than other developed economies in the region, such as Australia (35%) and New Zealand (39%), and is a dramatic decrease on last year’s figure of 32%.

According to the World of Work report, the biggest barrier to introducing flexible working arrangements; such as variable work hours, job-sharing, or working from home, is management’s concern about employee productivity (27%).  This is followed by lack of support from
business managers and concern about team culture and communications (17% respectively). 

Michael Smith, Country Director of Randstad Singapore, stated that companies need to embrace flexible working options, especially at a time when they are compelled to reduce their reliance on expatriate workers in the face of ever-tightening labour market conditions: “Adopting flexible work practices can improve employee engagement and satisfaction and create a culture of trust, which will help to attract and retain talent. This will essentially boost workforce productivity.” 

“However, many employers still believe in Singapore’s traditional business culture, where job commitment is demonstrated through long hours and a culture of ‘presenteeism’ – the practice of being present at one’s place of work for more hours than is required.” 

“Business leaders need to be aware that presenteeism due to a lack of flexibility might be a bigger drain on productivity, through poor employee engagement and collaboration,” Mr Smith added.  

One in five (19%) employees say workforce collaboration is highly effective in their organisation, the second lowest effectiveness score in the region behind China (16%), and well behind regional leaders India (42%) and Australia (30%), according to the report.

Mr Smith continued: “To foster workforce flexibility and collaboration, business leaders can use market research and talent analytics; such as findings from employee satisfaction surveys and retention statistics, to build a business case for flexible and collaborative work options.” 

“Then employers can look for departments or teams where there is desire or need for flexible work and where it suits the style of work, and run a pilot program and collect data on satisfaction, retention, performance and productivity. Proven success is the most powerful way to persuade sceptical business leaders about the benefits of flexible work,” Mr Smith suggested. 

The survey also revealed that:

  • More than half (55%) of employers admit their organisation’s performance in creating flexible work options is average or poor;
  • Six in ten employees say that flexible work gives them greater job satisfaction;         
  • Workers in Singapore say that 70% in the office and 30% working at home is the ideal work week;
  • Despite ageing populations and low birth rates, few employers intend to recruit more women (15%) or more people of mature age (15%) to combat talent shortages.

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