The Non-Work Things Singaporeans Accomplish With Flexible Work Arrangements
Top Image: Stephanie Lee / RICE File Photo

Starting December this year, all employers are required to establish a process for employees to request for flexible work arrangements. Some employers have raised concerns, citing the need to keep an eye on employees during office hours.

The rationale is understandable. You don’t really know what your employees are up to other than work when they’re not at the office. They could be lining up for tickets at the office. Or in a meeting while recovering from last night’s mala hotpot. 

But are employers’ concerns real or a new tactic to get employees to come back to the office?    

We find out what non-work-related tasks Singaporean employees managed to accomplish while working from home. And whether employers’ concerns are true—that flexible work arrangements pose a risk to productivity.

I’ve showered during virtual meetings before (after checking multiple times to make sure the camera is off). All I have to do is set my laptop right outside my bathroom and turn the volume up so I can hear it over the water. 

I’m still tuned in, so I don’t miss anything, and I’m more refreshed after. It’s a win-win. 

I think flexible work arrangements which allow remote work are great because they relieve employees of the performative aspect of work. If you finish your work early, there’s no need to act busy by clicking around on random Excel sheets. If there’s a pointless meeting, you can fill the time up by multi-tasking instead of pretending to nod along. 

Some employers may think that giving employees more flexibility will affect work quality or productivity. But I think it actually gives the employee more incentive to finish their work quickly so that they can do better things with the rest of their time.

– Kelly, 29

Image: Stephanie Lee / RICE File Photo

When I was working from home, I went out for three hours to complete a side hustle before returning home to continue working. I earned a little bit more cash on the side once. 

I don’t think flexi work arrangements have improved my productivity, but it will make me want to stay at a company longer because it’s a perk of the company. 

I’m not optimistic about the new guidelines. I have a friend whose boss immediately told them after the announcement that he still wants to see his employees in the office. When it’s urgent, my friend has to take a half-day leave to pick her children up from school. Sometimes the boss will even ask: “There’s no one else that can pick them up?” 

I think more conservative employers are still stuck in the same mindset about the office and work. 

– Sarah, 37 

Once, when working from home, I went on a date with someone I met on a dating app. I had completed most of my work, but it was still working hours. The positive to this is that I don’t feel compelled to pretend that I am doing work when I don’t have to and I return to work the next day more refreshed. 

Regardless, I am still equally committed to my work, even when I’m outside. I met my date at the Sentosa Skyline and Luge, and I received comments on a report. I quickly edited the report while on the Skyline. 

I like flexible work arrangements, but I am definitely more productive at the office. To me, companies that offer flexible work arrangements show that they trust their employees to be responsible with their time and work obligations. 

I might not use flexible work arrangements at my company as often, but it’s a nice thing to have. 

– Braxton, 28

I’m usually at my desk during office hours when working from home, but I’ve had colleagues who use their flexible working arrangements for pre-wedding photoshoots, so they don’t have to take half-day leave for these shoots. It starts early in the morning and takes about a couple of hours to finish, so they’re only eating an hour into office time. 

How productive someone is when working from home depends on the individual. Some might not have the right environment to work from home, so they might not be as productive. So productivity is an open question. 

I do think that flexible work arrangements might help young couples who want to start families. It’s much more challenging to start a family when you’re tired from work. Easier to control the time when the couple is at home. Productivity in another sense, I guess. 

Hopefully, the pandemic has shown us that work-from-home arrangements are possible. But I’m not sure how receptive employers will be. I think most of them will still want to see their employees in the office.

– Shannon, 33

Image: Stephanie Lee / RICE File Photo

Working at home made me realise I can get a lot of things done if I didn’t need to commute. 

I’d knock out all my tasks by Friday morning. I remember on one of these Fridays, I set my computer to not go to sleep so it looked like I was online on Slack. Then I went to the supermarket to get groceries. 

The rest of the day was spent preparing a fancy three-course dinner for my friends coming over at night. The assignments that I’d already completed the day before? Submitted at the end of the day.  

But as much as I love working from home, I absolutely understand why we have to be in the office on some days. How else are we going to get to work closely and bond with our colleagues? We can do video calls all we want, but at the end of the day, nothing beats having some face time and some office banter with other people in the workplace. 

I’m all for balance, so it’s good that companies need to institute flex-work arrangements if they haven’t done so yet. But I don’t think people should abuse it.

– Jeremy, 36

On a chill WFH day at my last job, I’d be on my PlayStation playing FIFA. Of course, I’d have Outlook open. When my status lapsed into ‘Idle’, I’d quickly touch my mousepad. But this wasn’t for the whole work day. I still managed to finish my work and deliver whatever I needed to deliver. 

Flexible work is a good thing because you can schedule your breaks as and when you need them, but it does take discipline. Not being in the office frees people up to work at the times that are best for themselves.

It’s also liberating to be able to rest whenever I want to. In the office, instead of resting, you’re pretending to be busy once the work is done. 

I know some employers might be sceptical. If they know I’m working for three hours and gaming for the rest of the work day, they might just choose to replace me with a part-timer or an overseas remote worker. 

Well, my answer to employers who think that way is that I take three hours to finish my work because I have the know-how. A part-timer might take a day to do what I can do.

– Joseph, 29

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