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Hybrid Work in Singapore – What Do The Experts Say?

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What are the reasons they embrace hybrid work, and what are their challenges? We set out to discover this during a roundtable discussion with three key experts and over 20 C-Suite stakeholders.

Are companies in Singapore moving to hybrid work?

According to research from McKinsey, 90% of companies globally are switching to hybrid work for the long-term. (1) Hybrid work benefits include reduced real estate and operating costs, an increased ability to attract top talent, particularly working parents and older employees, (2) and is proven in Stanford research to significantly improve employee retention. (3)

The same is true here in the region. Ernst & Young reported (4) that employees in Southeast Asia want flexibility in where and when they work, in the absence of which more than half (60%) would consider leaving their job. And seven in ten of SEA respondents say hybrid work arrangements will increase productivity and creativity. Not just during this period, but also after the pandemic. (5) 

In Singapore, 71% of companies (6) said they are looking to keep hybrid work even after the pandemic improves. This jives well with the majority of employees in the country, who say that they want to mix remote and office work (60%) or even just work from home (17%.) (7) 

Hybrid Work in Singapore: What the Experts Say

For the first FlexOS event in Singapore, we had the honor of welcoming Renee Kida (Global Head of People & Culture, Goto Financial), Susan P. Chen (Head of People – Asia, Riot Games) and Sam Neo (Top 10 HR Influencer APAC, StoryBuddy, People Mentality Inc.)



Additionally, we welcomed People and Business Leaders from forward-thinking companies in Singapore like Circles Asia, The Great Room, Una Brands, Merck, Superson, Sodexo, Nansen, Teneo and more.

The experts agreed: giving people more flexibility and freedom will significantly help you in the key challenge of attracting and retaining talent. However, it doesn’t come without its challenges. So have various companies approached hybrid work in Singapore?

How GoTo Financial and Riot Games approach hybrid work in Singapore

GoTo Financial Hybrid work model in Singapore: Choose a profile

Renee Kida, Global Head of People & Culture, shared that at GoTo Financial, the journey of hybrid work has just been kicked off. They did a lot of internal research and decided to create three models for working:

  • Mostly remote: but there would be times when they would still potentially come back off sites for example planning yearly events etc., 
  • Hybrid: with a minimum of four days a month but within that there could be some flexibility based on the team and the leadership and also the person’s needs 
  • Fully on site: because there are a small group of jobs that really need to be done 100% on site and every day for example handling data servers or workplace management itself 

These profiles were decided by understanding what the business needs are, what the leaders’ needs are and what the employees’ needs are. This is made even more complex as Go To operates in many markets in the region like Indonesia, India, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Riot Games: Hybrid work in the “131 model”

Riot Games’ Head of People – Asia, Susan P. Chen, shared that their approach was focused on aligning with the company’s DNA: innovation and creation. That’s why they shaped the hybrid model called “131” within that. 

The 131 model means that there are:

  • Core working days: Tuesday Wednesday Thursdays. These are the days that teams are expected to be on site to drive innovation and creation. 
  • Monday and Friday are the remote work days.

Linking the hybrid policy to the company’s DNA helped not only inform a guideline that can last for a long time. It also aids in employee communication and getting everyone on board. Riot can now easily remind employees to do what is right for them, for their team, and for the “players.” All with a clear expectation that they’re not going fully remote. But, that they are going to be super flexible because they are here to be closely connected to the players and the company’s teams. 

5 Recommendations for a Hybrid Work Model

Let Leaders Lead

Renee Kida (GoTo Financial) said that leaders need to lead the strategy. It’s important that the leaders have a clear articulation of why they’re choosing flexibility, and how it will be applied. Then, make sure that messages from top leaders start to cascade down through the organization.

Ensure Accountability & Responsibility

Renee also stressed the importance of accountability. A certain amount of freedom also means responsibility and accountability for making sure that the performance is met. Make sure that people are clear on need to get done, and that the right impact is made. In her mind, this starts with making expectations clear: what you are expecting and why.  

Make moments in the office social and meaningful

Susan Chen (Riot Games) shared an interesting insight. “I remember talking to someone who said it beautifully. It used to be that your home is a place to play and you come to the office to work. But now, it’s almost the opposite. You work at home but you come to the office to play in the sense that you want to work with your team,” Susan shared.

This also means companies need to re-shift and spread the message that the time we spend together is actually meaningful. There needs to be a value to coming into the office. Making people, especially younger team members, feel excited to be a part of those days coming together.  It’s critical to use those days to build that sense of connection and community. For example, by working with your team, but then also having lunch together. 

Communicate Clearly and and Consistently, especially in “Moments that Matter“

Sam Neo, the founder and CEO of StoryBuddy and HR Consultancy People Mentality Inc. underlined the importance of messaging. “From an employer branding perspective, messaging is very important, especially to message clearly. We can’t assume that employees understand what we are thinking of as leaders and policymakers on a chart.” 

And as a best practice, this messaging then needs to be constantly reinforced so that we ensure the message lands. Using different touch points to deliver the messaging is equally key, Sam added. 

Susan agreed. And she said to focus on the positive: in this new way of working, you have more freedom and flexibility. That’s the core message. Be really clear why these are the great opportunities to come into the office and use the time. 

Sam summarized how to take on the challenge and in three key points around communication:

  • Ensure the constant alignment across the board and the structure within flexibility to enter the alignment about expectation from leaders.
  • Focus on the moments that matter. This could be for example the day that they come back to the office to the point where they reached the office. It’s important from an organizational standpoint to meet all these key moments that matter and amplify them in a positive manner.
  • Strike a very careful balance between consistency but also being open enough. Retaining the ability to listen and allow ourselves to evolve our thinking and therefore messaging.

Not everyone will accept new ways of working. Ensure you manage the manager

Renee highlighted the big role HR will need to play. There are some leaders or managers that really get the concept of hybrid. But, there are other managers who’ve had a few bad experiences with a low performer on their team or they feel that productivity has dropped their desire for control and how do they make sure that certain outcomes are done. So there is a need for how HR can support them to understand and get into the new concept, feel comfortable with the changes

Inputs from Singapore People and Business Leaders

Following the great sharing from our experts, C-Suite leaders broke off into smaller groups to discuss the how and what of hybrid work in a more intimate setting. A few key topics that were shared at the end of these roundtable discussions included:

Measuring Effectiveness 

How do you put a metric on whether or not your policies are efficient? That was a question that multiple leaders in Singapore discussed. While various opinions were shared, everyone agreed that the primary metric should be about the main company goals. Make sure that you keep repeating the main goals and objectives of the company. This way everybody with their individual agenda and personal schedule can still relate to what’s the final objective and the goal of the company.

Communication

“Communication is very important for a lot of organizations that are struggling with hybrid talent. Even though we’re giving all these flexibility where labor is short, especially in gaming and Blockchain industries. We continue to go down the path that organizations need to groom and nurture their own talent and create pipelines for training.” Amarit Charoenphan, Chief Evangelist at 5GCT.CO.

Talent Retention and the Importance of Middle Managers

There is a real junction of people who work in the traditional way and those who work in the more progressive way. It’s really crucial to see what makes people happy, and how to make them feel comfortable in the workspace. And specifically, to not downgrade their work experience. Especially middle managers play a big role. They need to build a safe workplace that’s built on trust to successfully work with the team regardless of location.

Flex Time, Not Just Space

“There is still a case for choice where you can actually have flex time. Because the idea of hybrid on site or remote basically just talks about flex place. But to make it more attractive for people to adopt any of this and come back, flex time is an important option.” Ean Yeo, Chief Success Officer, Charistal.

Employee-Centricity

“Companies should adopt a very employee centric approach. One where you try to focus on their sense of accomplishment, fulfillment and what they want to get out of their job. And then use the work from home and the work from the office as a tool. How do you improve their level of comfort? Mixing places and times they can work is key. We’ve seen a lot of great results when people can work late because they won’t spend more time with their family.” Yvan Maillard, Chief Commercial Officer, The Great Room

Creating a Vibrant Place

There is a stereotype saying that young people don’t want to come to the office because they are craving for interactions and they want to build something and they have a lot of energy and things to give. So a good and energetic place is a good tool for them to express themselves.

The FlexOS team is incredibly thankful to all speakers and participants in the roundtable. If you’re keen to join a future event, please follow us on LinkedIn for future updates. If you’d like to find out how to manage a successful hybrid team, click here to learn more about our hybrid work platform or click here for a free demo of FlexOS. 

Sources for this article: 

1  McKinsey, “What executives are saying about the future of hybrid work,” May 2021
2 Mercer, “Preparing for a more flexible future,” May 2021
3 Nick Bloom (Stanford) et. al., “How Hybrid Work From Home Works Out,” April 2022
4 EY, “Majority of surveyed Southeast Asia (SEA) employees prefer not to return to pre…,” July 2021
5 IDC, “Return to Office and Hybrid Work: What Employers Need to Know,” March 2022
6 IndSight, “The Future of Work,” November 2021
7 YouGov and ChannelNewsAsia, “Thinking out of the cubicle – what lies ahead for hybrid…,” April 2021

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