Remote work, or working from home, is no longer an optional luxury — it’s now a necessity for most Singapore businesses. Given that this new remote working environment has been thrust upon us, it’s understandable that not every worker, or workplace, is ready for this transition.
The obvious negative flow-on effects are lower productivity from workers or teams who feel disconnected from their colleagues and work goals alike. With that in mind, remote work actually does boast many inherent advantages, that if leveraged properly, will boost productivity as well as satisfaction.
Let’s take a look at what you can do to keep your staff happy and engaged while they work from home during COVID-19.
1. Adjust Your Idea of Working Norms
The new paradigm of working from home may present some challenges for some employers and employees. As opposed to fighting the drift of working schedules, you can decide to instead embrace it, and let your staff discuss where physically and when they are most conducive and productive to work.
Some employees may now have family commitments during the day and prefer some flexibility in the working hours Or they might just be night owls preferring to start work later in the day and end the day later in the evenings.
As long as there is a predetermined time to regularly check in with each other, and they are getting their work done, you can embrace this new paradigm and let your staff have autonomy over their work schedule.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) actually encourages this flexibility in their Conditions of Employment report — they found that having flexible working hours were the biggest factor in reducing resignation rates.
2. Reduce Isolationism Through Community
As humans we thrive on personal interaction with real human beings — when that is suddenly taken away, the results can be astoundingly negative for staff satisfaction.The worst part is, it can often go ignored, as productivity is seen as the primary metric. However when looked at holistically, there is very seldom genuine productivity without happiness in one’s job.
We mentioned before that you should let your staff pick their hours — however we strongly encourage you to have a universal check in time every week or month where the team can catch up.
The explosion of popularity of conferencing tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams are a prime example of keeping teams engaged with each other. The focus of these catch ups, other than work — allowing your team to talk about life and family and the common struggles of COVID-19 are very healthy.
Keep the communal culture of your workplace alive, and you’ll find your team continues to rally to work towards common goals.
3. Invest in the Right IT Tools for Remote Working
While perhaps unexpected in its urgency, the right infrastructure for remote working has always been inevitable for any forward-thinking business. All staff need access to good IT equipment to use at home, for video conferencing, and appropriate cyber security.
This investment in remote working is also being heavily pushed by the Singapore Government:
The Institute of Human Resource Professionals (IHRP) is aggregating learning resources and toolkits to better equip HR professionals to manage sustained remote working.
The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) will introduce more enterprise capacity-building programmes on business continuity and business resilience.
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and industry association SGTech have also come up with technology solutions for e-invoicing, e-commerce remote working, e-billing and e-commerce, among others.
The Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG) by IMDA and ESG has also increased from a maximum support level to 80% (previous 70%) till 31 Dec 2020.
Use this circuit breaker period as an opportunity to divert on-premises operating costs (that are currently not being used), to planning and purchasing robust IT solutions for current and future deployments.
4. Provide Training
According to a recent study, the third most important factor in job happiness in Singapore was found to be helping employees acquire new skills. Most staff have an inherent desire to learn, so it doesn’t always have to be about working towards a promotion.
If you currently have staff that are unable to perform core functions of their role, they might now have some spare time on their hands. That makes the COVID-19 circuit breaker period a terrific time to help staff upskill.
Staff training has been shown to reduce employee turnover, increase employee satisfaction, and improve a company’s reputation to attract top talent.
Whether it’s on the job learning, or formal qualifications, the MOM actively encourages employee upskilling. You can have a look at their SkillsFuture programme, which may be able to offer you support in your own training initiatives.
Allow your staff to take a day or two to go through the long list of courses available to them, whether it be through SkillsFuture or traditional education and training organisations. It doesn’t even need to be formal training, it could be online games like Kahoot! or 100pointchallenge.com.
Either way, make it a goal during the circuit breaker period for each staff member to acquire new skills — it may just produce your next career-long rockstar performer.
5. Break the Culture of Presenteeism
Singapore workers have an infamous reputation for taking their work home with them, even before COVID-19 — 70% of Singaporean workers normally respond to work calls and emails in their personal time.
The follow on from this culture is presenteeism, or the desire to be seen to present, above actually being productive. Given the ingrained nature of presenteeism in Singapore, we have to be careful not to let this creep into remote work.
Make it clear that even if your staff wish to continue their typical working schedule, they are not required to be ‘seen’ at all times — the most important thing is that they get the work done, and to their usual standard.
Make sure to make it clear that staff are still to take lunch breaks etc., and that you value their work over being just seen to be present.
Ordinarily we would recommend having no-call/contact periods before or after office hours, however with staff perhaps wanting to work different hours, there will need to be some flexibility here.
6. Make Sure Managers Are Still Resolving Work Related Issues, Even When Working Remotely
A large study found a unique aspect of Singapore working culture is that the second biggest factor for job satisfaction was having a manager who could solve problems in the workplace. And just because staff aren’t actually working in the workplace, it doesn’t mean that workplace problems disappear.
Mr. Koh Juan Kiat, Executive Director of the Singapore National Employer Federation (SNEF) suggests managers hold regular e-meetings with employees to check in on them virtually through video-conferencing and messaging etc..
The concept of checking in on staff could be as simple as a friendly text message now and then, e.g. “Everything’s okay?”, or “Stay Safe”. Every contact point helps the employee to know that the manager is mindful of the staff’s existence and work.
Beyond that, managers should continue to be reachable and adopt a friendly and patient approach towards work issues raised by employees.
Where to Next for Keeping Your Staff Happy and Productive During COVID-19
Soon, remote working will be the norm for many Singapore businesses — at the moment however we have been thrust into the unknown, which is delivering operational and cultural paradigm shifts. Despite that, we see this as time to turn a challenge into an opportunity.
By updating and evolving our businesses to work remotely, we are not just staying viable in the present, we are future-proofing for a digital tomorrow.
If you have any questions about how you can improve your staff job satisfaction and productivity during COVID-19, we have a large team of HR experts who can do just that — so please do contact us, it’s both our job and pleasure to assist.
Increase Your Employees’ Job Satisfaction and Productivity During COVID-19
Rikvin’s HR specialists are here to guide you.