FLEXIBILITY, FACE-TO-FACE INTERACTION
Flexibility also remains important for some workplaces, even as face-to-face interaction is encouraged.
In the office, learning and sharing “naturally occurs” when employees are together, said Salt’s Ms Barratt.
“People feed off each other’s energy. Also, for a number of (people on) our team, the office is their favoured workplace as they get dedicated time and space to do their role, especially when they are sharing a house with multiple people,” she said.
Even though their team is returning to the office more regularly from January, Ms Barratt believes that the key to the future workplace is flexibility, she told CNA.
This goes beyond working from home or working from an office, and companies should instead provide a range of working arrangements that work for both the business and the individual, she added.
“Some people may prefer a condensed working week of four days per week, others might like part-time or fully remote (work hours). There are so many ways we can work, and I think it’s important to realise it’s not one size fits all,” said Ms Barratt.
Founder of software development agency Sleek Digital, Lester Law, said his firm will continue to work from home, with only half of his employees returning to the office every Friday for an in-depth, four to five hour meeting.
Mr Law is considering a return to the office from February, when Singapore is “more certain” about the Omicron variant situation and when all six of his employees have received their booster jab.
“Currently it’s still very shaky, we don’t know whether it will spread more badly. We have overseas partners which are quite badly affected, so we still want to see if it’s going to get worse before we try and commit to return to the office,” he told CNA.
Before heading into the office every Friday for their weekly meeting, the three returning employees have to take an antigen rapid test. The other three members attend the meeting on Zoom.
“(There’s) quite a significant difference, drop in productivity when we work from home. But my team is still quite friendly, so sometimes they work after office hours if they work from home because there’s no travelling time,” said Mr Law.
While working from home, his team generally worked longer hours but was “not so productive”.
“We run software projects, so we do a lot of Zoom meetings, which is a hassle sometimes. Sometimes we just want to turn the chair and talk to someone, like ‘Hey, help me solve this problem’,” he added.
“Now we don’t have the ability to do this, so hopefully better communication means better productivity means faster projects.”
Employees CNA spoke to mostly agreed that working from the office was better for communication and collaboration.
“Let’s say I want to explore something, it’s so easy. Today, I met two of my colleagues to discuss work. And it’s really so much more efficient to just speak, rather than if we try to schedule a meeting online,” said Ms Ng.
“We just walk around the office, and just grab people (to chat). It’s definitely way more efficient in that sense.”
62-year-old Steve Mohamad, who works in the banking sector, prefers to be in the office. He has been working from the office every other week when work-from-home wasn’t the default arrangement.
“You get to interact with your team more. I do miss the social interaction with staff. And it’s an opportunity for staff to be mentored and coached. You can’t do that working from home,” he said.
“It’s difficult… I mean, we all manage working from home. But that personal touch you miss … and some jobs specifically you need to interact with your clients. Even though your clients are people from the same company, not external clients, you do need that face-to-face interaction.”