More and more companies are beginning to recognise the importance and benefits of embracing flexible working — or “flexi-work” arrangements. According to the latest Conditions of Employment Report released by the Ministry of Manpower, in 2018, 53 percent of firms surveyed offered at least one flexible working arrangement, such as part-time work, flexible hours or tele-working.
Yet, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) still tend to lag in adopting workplace flexibility for a number of reasons. Some business owners fear that such arrangements hinder work efficiency — a key issue for SMEs that already face hiring challenges. A 2017 survey by credit and business information bureau DP Information Group found that more than one in four SMEs in Singapore have difficulties hiring staff they need, impacting their productivity levels. Others worry that they may struggle to manage staff remotely.
Here’s a closer look at why flexible working hours work for, and not against, SMEs.
Read also: Wondering How to Retain Staff? Keep Them Happy
When it comes to flexible work schedules, many employers worry that they could cause employee productivity to take a nosedive — with thoughts of multiple distractions looming at home and large amounts of time spent away from actual work.
However, employment agency Robert Half revealed that 60 percent of Human Resources directors have actually seen an increase in employee work productivity when staff are allowed to work remotely from home.
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Mr Steven Cheah, Project Director at event and brand marketing company Werks Solutions, says it really depends on the assignments that staff work on.
“If it’s a proposal deck, then there’s no problem with having them work from home as long as deadlines are met,” he says. Mr Cheah adds, “If employees work late the previous day, I tell them to come in at 11am so they can avoid the fatigue of commuting during the morning rush hour.”
By offering flexible or remote work schedules, business owners enable employees to save time normally spent commuting and start work when they feel freshest. At the same time, flexi-work arrangements may also reduce absenteeism and tardiness as they help provide employees with better work-life balance and inculcate a strong sense of personal responsibility over schedules and work standards.
Improved Employee Morale
Flexible work arrangements can go a long way in lifting the spirits of employees. They enable staff to take a break when they need to, without fear of angering their managers. Not only does this make each member of the workplace feel valued, but it also reduces employee burnout from work overload.
“We had a very capable employee who was interested in doing some volunteer work. He was a valued member of the team, so we set up a part-time work arrangement that enabled him to come into work twice a week while balancing his external obligations. He stayed with us for five years and did not have any problems meeting his work deadlines,” says Mdm Phyllis Wong, Administration and Accounts Manager at manufacturing company Hilzinger Singapore.
Further highlighting the link between work flexibility and employee morale, the Ministry of Manpower’s Conditions of Employment 2018 Report, which covered about 1.3 million workers and 3,700 firms, revealed that a lack of flexibility in the workplace played the most significant role in a firm’s resignation rate.
Read more: 4 Ways Singapore SMEs Can Attract and Retain Employees
Better Talent Retention
One of the key topics raised during the Budget 2019 roundtable was the issue of Singaporeans who are unable to work full-time due to family commitments, like raising young children.
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By offering greater flexibility, SMEs can reduce employee turnover rates and retain talented staff who may need more flexible work arrangements. In its Conditions of Employment 2018 Report, the Manpower Ministry revealed that employees are more likely to stay with companies that offer flexible work schedules. These include part-time work, staggered start hours and remote work.
Retaining valuable talent may in turn lead to savings on time and money that would otherwise be spent in the recruitment and training of new replacement hires.
“Remote work is one way of keeping talented members — especially mothers — in the team. The output of their work and ability to meet deadlines are a good gauge of their value to the team, regardless of whether they work on- or off-site,” notes Mr Cheah.