More firms offering ad-hoc flexible work arrangements: MOM survey

SINGAPORE — More firms in Singapore are providing ad-hoc flexible work arrangements and leave benefits not mandated by law, such as marriage and study leave, to help their employees with personal and family commitments, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Monday (Nov 21), citing the results of its latest employment survey.

The number of firms that provide ad-hoc flexi-work arrangements, such as unplanned time off or ad-hoc tele-working — where employees work away from the office — rose from 70 per cent last year to 77 per cent in 2016.

The ministry’s latest Conditions of Employment report surveyed 3,800 organisations employing more than 1.3 million workers. In general, the survey found that employers are “more amenable” to offering ad-hoc measures on a case-by-case basis “as opposed to instituting formal processes”, since ad-hoc working arrangements require minimal adjustments to work.

However, based on data provided by companies, lower resignation rates are typically seen in those that offer more formal flexible work arrangements, that have a higher proportion of full-time employees on a five-day work week, and that have a higher proportion of full-time employees with at least 15 days of annual leave.

A favoured choice of formal flexi-work arrangement for companies is part-time work, the study found, with 35 per cent of them offering this, followed by staggered working hours, which means employees may choose to start and end work earlier or later.

The proportion of firms that offer at least one formal flexible work arrangement, such as part-time work, has remained unchanged since 2014 at 47 per cent, after rising steadily from 38 per cent in 2011. Still, the proportion of employees at such firms rose from 65 per cent last year to 67 per cent this year.

For companies that offer ad-hoc flexi-work arrangements, the proportion of employees rose from 76 per cent last year to 82 per cent this year.

Human resource experts said that the figures point to companies viewing flexible work arrangements as a means to retain and attract talent. They reflect a more progressive mindset of measuring success via outcomes, compared to how much time an employee spends in the office.

Mr Erman Tan, president of the Singapore Human Resources Institute, said: “These arrangements make workers happier. And when you have happier workers, the level of motivation is higher.”

Experts pointed out that ad-hoc working arrangements have become a popular option as companies continue to balance the need to keep workers happy and to ensure that company culture is not negatively impacted by flexible work arrangements.

Mr Martin Hill, associate director for human resources at recruitment firm Randstad Singapore, said: “At this moment, organisations are waiting — with some taking the ad-hoc approach — to see if flexible working truly makes a positive difference in the workplace.”

Fashion retailer Megafash, which has 16 employees, allows them to start work later and to work out-of-office. The start-up’s head of talent acquisition Shankari Gunasekar said that such arrangements promote efficiency and ensure that employees get ample rest in the event that they work late.

Mr Lee Haoming, 28, who works as a strategist in Megafash, said that having such arrangements does not breed complacency among employees. He added that the firm has a fortnightly meeting to keep tabs on the work progress of its different departments.

“I feel it is more productive this way, rather than having a rigid structure where you have to be in the office from 9am to 6pm,” Mr Lee said.

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