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With COVID-19 workplace rules easing, companies make adjustments while others take a wait-and-see approach

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SINGAPORE: Come Monday (April 5), a 10 member team at Certact Engineering will be in the office in full force for the first time in a year.

The team, responsible for administration, sales and other non-production matters at the local precision engineering company, has been split in two since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, taking turns to work from home or office every other day.

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But with the easing of COVID-19 workplace measures, the team has volunteered to be back in the office full-time.

For the company’s much larger production team, a lost team arrangement will remain.Certact Engineering currently has 53 employees.

Managing Director Ellis Eng said the job of the 10-member team is to liaise with suppliers and the company’s internal production team. Remote working has made these processes a bit more tedious for some.

“It’s just the nature of being in the semiconductor manufacturing industry,” she said. “Although they volunteered to come back, I also told them that if they want to work from home, they can do it anytime.”

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In order to accommodate more employees who wish to be back in the office while respecting safe distancing measures, the company has converted a meeting room into a workspace.

“We have to (to) make arrangements because our office is not very big,” Ms. Eng said, adding that shields are already installed to act as barriers between workstations.

RELEASE OF RULES FROM 5 APR.

Singapore officials announced last week that the quota of employees likely to return to work will be reduced from 50% to 75% as of April 5.

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The current limit requiring employees to work from home for at least half of their working time will also be lifted. Divided team arrangements will also no longer be mandatory.

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Nonetheless, employers were urged to continue to stagger departure times for their employees and to implement flexible working hours when possible.

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The restrictions against cross-deployments will remain, while existing security measures such as physical distancing and regular cleaning of common areas have yet to be implemented.

At Mastercard, employees will be free to decide how many days they want to work in the office starting April 12, its executive vice president for customer delivery in Asia-Pacific Shafi Shaikh said.

Currently, employees can only work in the office for a maximum of 10 days every four weeks. Those wishing to enter the office must register through an online system that monitors the daily capacity limit, which will be raised to 75% from April 12.

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Mastercard said it continues to encourage employees who use public transportation to avoid rush hour. Other security measures such as temperature controls in the office will also remain.

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“Through ongoing communication with our employees, including staff surveys, our employees tell us that they value flexibility, but they also want some degree of return to the office,” Shaikh said, adding that the company’s approach will continue to “be pivoted. around flexibility with security ”.

OTHERS CHOOSE TO “WAIT AND SEE”

There are other companies holding back the changes at the moment.

Contacted by UKTN, Google confirmed that a return to the office “will remain voluntary” until September for its employees around the world.

The tech giant also said employees who work in a country other than where they are employed will have more time to return home until September 1, although those who need more time “can request an extension. in the event of exceptional circumstances or difficulties ”. .

At the height of the pandemic, Google had allowed some employees to move abroad for personal reasons, such as returning to their home country.

File photo of Google’s Singapore office. (Photo: Kit Tang See)

Twitter, which last year allowed its employees to work from home “forever” if they so choose, said its team “is still evaluating” the latest workplace flexibility measures.

“Twitter was one of the first companies to adopt a work-from-home model in the face of COVID-19, and we weren’t expecting to be one of the first to return to offices,” he said in a statement. e-mail response to UKTN.

“So if our people are able to work effectively from home and want to continue to do so forever, then we’ll get there.”

Sixty percent of its Singapore employees have expressed a desire to work from home for good. That said, his office will be ready to welcome those who wish to return to the office or explore a hybrid arrangement, he added.

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Relocation start-up Moovaz, whose office is located in Ayer Rajah Crescent, said it was in no rush to change its existing hybrid work arrangement and would take a wait-and-see approach for the next month or so.

Currently, its 43 employees can work from home up to four days a week. A rotation schedule ensures that only 30% of staff are in the office at any given time, according to Miki Ng officials.

Moovaz said it has made several other changes to work processes over the past year, such as increased reliance on cloud-based systems. He also set aside a budget to help employees supplement their personal insurance coverage to include risks that may arise from working from home, among other changes to company policies.

As productivity and staff morale are unaffected by remote working, he added that these changes have created “a certain rigidity that makes returning to pre-pandemic methods less straightforward.”

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The same goes for the marketing and communications agency Archetype, which currently allows employees to work in the office only if they wish. Since the office has a cap of 20 to 40 percent of the workforce at all times, employees will need to reserve slots in advance.

Ms Mabel Chiang, its managing director from Singapore, said commuting to work was a concern before vaccines became available.

“So we made the flexible option where people can book at the office if they want,” she told UKTN. “This is our current arrangement and will remain so until the vaccination is rolled out to the general public.”

Being in the consulting business, Ms Chiang said the company does not need employees to be physically in the office to keep its engines running. The pandemic has taught her to be nimble and thrive in a new normal, she added.

For example, the agency has put in place several initiatives to contribute to the well-being of its employees by encouraging teams to avoid scheduling business meetings on Fridays and sending emails after 7 p.m.

Ms Chiang added that a hybrid work arrangement is one the agency envisions in the longer term, such as having employees work three days in the office and the rest of the week at home.

When that happens, he could rearrange his office space by cutting some workstations to create more collaborative spaces, she said.

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