A sizeable proportion of employees in Singapore prefer to retain flexible work arrangements rather than work from the office or from home on most days, a study by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) has found. The study, which polled more than 2,000 workers over nine months, found that preferred work arrangements have shifted considerably throughout the pandemic.

From mid-July last year to April this year, between 41 and 52 per cent felt that flexible work arrangements should be the new norm for workplaces in Singapore. In the same period, around 20 to 35 per cent felt that working from home on most days should be the new norm for workplaces.

These findings were published in a working paper on Attitudes towards Work and Workplace Arrangements Amidst COVID-19 in Singapore. It was authored by four researchers: Dr Mathew Mathews, principal research fellow at IPS and head of the IPS Social Lab, and three others from the Social Lab – research assistant Fiona Phoa, associate director Mike Hou and research associate Elizabeth Lim. The researchers said in the working paper that a preference to work from home on most days increased when cases of COVID-19 in Singapore rose, while there was an increase in the preference to work from the office with the easing of pandemic restrictions. “This suggests that there has been a shift in attitudes towards living with COVID-19 as more employees return to the office, and as COVID-19 case numbers come under control,” said the paper.

In more recent waves, around four in 10 (37 to 43 per cent) felt that employees should be allowed to work from home three days a week. In fact, more respondents have been going back to the workplace on most days. At least half of the study respondents have been doing so during the course of the pandemic, and the proportion has been increasing in 2022. As many as 74 per cent said they were returning to workplaces on most days when polled between Apr 1 and Apr 11.

“Some have, however, felt cajoled to return,” said the researchers. Between 37 and 42 per cent of respondents who currently worked from home most or all of the time felt pressured to return to the office on most days, but this proportion has been steadily decreasing.

The COVID-19 multi-ministry task force announced last Friday that all employees can return to the workplace from Tuesday, along with further relaxation of safe management measures, such as the removal of group size restrictions.

WOMEN, CAREGIVERS PREFER FLEXIBLE WORK
The surveys also found that women, in particular caregivers, were more likely to prefer flexible work and working from home. Around 73 per cent of female respondents felt that working from home on most days or flexible work arrangements should be the new norm for workplaces in Singapore, as compared to around 66 per cent of male respondents. “The gendered preferences for work arrangements in the new norm possibly reflects how females continue to be burdened with the lion’s share of domestic care work,” said the researchers. Among respondents with children at home, 44 per cent felt that flexible work arrangements should be the new norm for workplaces.

Respondents with aged persons at home were more likely to feel that flexible work arrangements should be the new norm for workplaces in Singapore (52 per cent) as compared to those with children or those with both children and aged persons at home. The study also found that around 94 per cent of female respondents with dependants preferred working from home on most days or having flexible working arrangements as compared to 86 per cent of male respondents with dependants.

CNA

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