5 ways Singapore companies should embrace flexi-work

As you stuff yourself into an overcrowded MRT carriage at 8:15am, bursting at the seams with people all rushing to their Raffles Place offices by 9am, you curse your boss and wish your company would embrace flexi-work, just like the government has been bugging them to.

So the recent launch of the new Tripartite Standard on Flexible Work Arrangements was an encouraging development. The new framework will be voluntary, but we're hoping it will pave the way towards normalising flexi work options.

Many employers are no doubt still shaking their heads and insisting that loosening the tight leashes on which they keep their employees will result in their businesses' financial ruin.

While not every flexi-work arrangement will work for all companies, employers should educate themselves on the various options so they can find ways to keep their employees happy and stop them from quitting.

Here are five ways Singapore companies can embrace flexi-work.

Invest in teleconferencing equipment

Non-client facing employees can often do their jobs remotely-except when forced to attend meetings when their companies refuse to invest in teleconferencing equipment.

While Skype works just fine for one-on-one calls, equipping meeting rooms with teleconferencing equipment will allow all staff to be present, whether they're working from home or based overseas. Local companies wishing to expand overseas will be glad they made this investment.

Consider staggered hours and flexible lunch hours

Having every employee in Singapore rush to work at 9am and go for lunch at 1pm makes for stressed out, grumpy workers who have to endure longer travelling and queuing times just because their employer wants them all in the office at the same time.

Employers need to think about the times when they really, really need their workers to be present, and then offer them the flexibility to organise their remaining time. For most office workers, staggered hours and flexible lunch hours should not be disruptive at all.

Embrace online communication tools

Anyone who's tech savvy knows a lot can be done by employees comfortably from home, armed with a laptop and internet connection.

Unfortunately, many employers don't know / don't want to know about the online communication tools that can make remote working more feasible for their employees.

To be a decent employer, it is now more important than ever to get familiar with online communication tools such as Slack and Zoom. Online project management software like ProofHub and collaboration software like Flowdock and GoToMeeting can be useful, too.

Schedule in a way that prioritises flexibility

Singaporeans work very long hours, and oftentimes this is not solely due to the volume of work, but poor organisation of their work day. Many bosses think nothing of dumping work on their subordinates' table at 6pm and demanding it be done by the next morning.

In order to enable workers to enjoy flexibility or fewer hours at the office, employers should pay more attention to how their workflow is scheduled.

Scheduling meetings and other events for which employees must be present in the late morning or early afternoon makes staggered hours possible, and also builds goodwill as everyone hates that boss who schedules 9am or 5:30pm meetings.

Scheduling also enables employees to share the collective burden of "face time". For instance, if the employer is concerned that nobody will be around to answer the phone, employees can take turns to be physically present rather than have everyone at the office at the same time.

Measure results

Implementing flexi-work policies isn't a panacea that will magically solve all your company's problems.

Just like any other system, flexi-work arrangements need to be evaluated, so companies can see what's working for them and how they can improve.

Some employers make the mistake of removing all flexi-work options after a single bad experience with an employee. Well, don't expect to get things right the first time.

Instead, find ways to measure results, such as by focusing on quality of work, volume of work completed, or number of deadlines missed. Then address how flexi-work is affecting your worker's performance for better or for worse.