Every week, I scan the news for must-know stories about the employee-centric, happier, distributed, and AI-driven future of work.
The State of Hybrid Work in Singapore
Hybrid Work combines work from home, office, and 'third places' like cafes and coworking spaces. And it's taking the world by storm. According to McKinsey, over 90% of companies are switching to hybrid work long-term.
Not only does hybrid work help them reduce real estate and operating costs by up to 50%. It also increases a company's ability to attract and retain top talent.
According to YouGov, during the pandemic, 60% of employees in Singapore said they wanted to mix remote and office work or only work from home.
The University of Leeds shared that hybrid workers report higher levels of job satisfaction, engagement, and commitment. No wonder Stanford researchers have proven that hybrid work increases employee retention.
So what about those employees who got their wish and now have a hybrid working schedule?
This is what FlexOS set out to answer. The insights from our study show that hybrid work is here to stay, and that employers can make it a true win-win by focusing on social connections and personalization.
- Hybrid work is a must: one in two employees would quit if they no longer get a flexible work schedule from their employer
- Employees go to the office for collaboration, focused work, and learning on the job
- Workshops are the #1 driver for Singaporeans to come to the office more than required
- Employees want to take an active role in staying connected to their colleagues.
- Office FOMO is real
Read on for the full study results.
1. Hybrid work is a must: one in two employees would quit if they no longer get a flexible work schedule from their employer
The time of fully working from home is over for most employees in Singapore. Many companies have asked or offered employees to come back into the office.
There’s often a clear rationale for this. Apple's CEO Tim Cook shared in a company memo that its return-to-office plans are to preserve "the in-person collaboration that is so essential to our culture. The truth is that there has been something essential missing from this past year: each other. Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate.”
He's not the only one concerned about collaboration: over 70% of HR professionals said they were more concerned about employee collaboration this year than before the pandemic began.
But just because a partial return to the office makes sense, doing this full-time would not sit well with employees. Based on our research, they will vote with their feet in case of a back-to-office mandate:
For Singaporean employees currently practicing hybrid work, 1 in 2 (52%) say they would quit their job if there were no longer an option for flexible work.
This number goes up even further for Millennials (25-34), where 57% say they would quit without a hybrid working option. These insights make it clear that companies and employees have good reasons to be in the office; asking employees to come back entirely is at the companies' peril.
2. Employees go to the office for collaboration, focused work, and learning on the job
In the post-COVID era, many people have gotten used to working remotely, especially fresh graduates who have just entered the workforce. For them, and all of us, the "default option" is our own home. After all, it's where we wake up.
Nothing is easier than just opening up our laptop and getting started. Getting ready, dressing up, and commuting to the office is a considerable barrier compared to the "default option" of working from home.
So after two years of no commuting and a greater work-life balance, it is no surprise that companies have found it rather challenging to get people back in the office. Employees nowadays need an extremely compelling reason to return to the office.
In a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, Chris Capossela (Microsoft) underscores this with a statistic from the latest Work Trend Index: almost three-quarters (73%) of employees need a better reason to return to the office than just "company expectations." Good news: there still are some intrinsic reasons for people to want to come to the office, and most of them are social. Here’s what we found:
While working from home has many benefits, employees in Singapore still have good reasons to come back to the office. And they are human. Amongst all options, collaboration, focused work, and socializing with colleagues were ranked the highest.
Interestingly, Gen Z (18-24) wants to be in the office for on-the-job learning so they could get direct feedback.
This makes sense, given that about 80% of learning happens by shadowing others – something that’s hard to do at home.
Millennials (25-34) on the other hand, choose to come into the office for the right environment and vibe to do work more than other age groups.
Companies have started adapting to the new rules of office work. At the recent People Matters conference Lisa Chang, Global Chief People Officer at The Coca-Cola Company, shared how they shape the 'why' of coming to the office: "Organizations need to establish why people come in. For us at Coke, it's about the three C's: co-creation, collaboration, and celebration."
3. Creative, wellbeing, and other Workshops are the #1 driver for Singaporeans to come to the office more than required
As shared in "Building Community at Work," according to Ben Hamley, a work futurist at JLL, the lack of face-to-face interactions in hybrid work has made employees feel less connected to their coworkers. As he shares: "the 'more hybrid' someone's work pattern is, the more they report feeling overwhelmed by a huge mental burden and isolated, lacking strong connections with colleagues." Koh Ching Hong, the CEO of FujiFilm Business Innovation, said that "Hybrid Work is now the norm, and engagement is a major challenge. We're losing the sense of team."
Human connection is easy to achieve in a traditional office. For example, running into coworkers at the elevator, having small talk in the kitchen, etc. Lunches or coffee breaks are quickly and informally organized. While these interactions seem unrelated to work, they have been proven to spark creativity, kindle a sense of fellowship, and, most importantly, a sense of belonging to a shared community.
So how can we achieve this when people only spend 2-3 days in the office and often on different days?
Our research shows that 67% of hybrid workers in Singapore would be motivated to come to the office for social, creative, well-being, and training workshops, especially when those workshops are for small groups of like-minded colleagues. Both those that they already know and others they have yet to meet. Creating these opportunities to get together helps build essential connections and community.
Get-togethers such as team lunches, coffee breaks, co-working sessions, and other group activities organized by managers (53%) closely follow workshops. This makes sense, as we've seen managers play an outsized role in keeping social cohesion going.
Recent Humu research shows that there's 22% higher employee engagement across teams with great managers and 78% more psychological safety is created across teams with great managers – the most significant predictor of team effectiveness.
The motivators listed above are true across all age groups, except for 54+, for whom face-to-face work meetings would be the primary motivation to come in. Their preference may be partly due to more established habits, and the fact that the promise of seamless hybrid collaboration, with equity between those in the room and elsewhere, still has yet to materialize.
4. Employees want to take an active role in staying connected to their colleagues
According to recent Humu research, employees say relationships with colleagues, collaboration, and communication with teammates are the three most challenging aspects of hybrid work.
Microsoft’s Work Index study tells the same story about remote teams. According to their research, only half of employees have strong relationships with their direct teams, while even fewer (42%) have such relationships with other teams.
Even companies that heavily invest in employee experience will encounter these challenges in their organizations. The challenge of connecting people is simply too big to just leave the HR. Well, there’s good news!
A whopping 90% of Singaporean employees want to take an active role and create small events like lunches or doing something fun after work to ensure the team stays connected.
Of these employees, 58% would do it without any reward, whereas 42% think getting rewarded for taking the initiative would be motivating.
Interestingly, it's especially younger professionals (18-34) who say they’d do that if their employer rewarded them for it. They are used to working remotely (especially those who entered the workforce purely working remotely due to the pandemic) and need extrinsic rewards from their company to meet up and connect with colleagues.
5. Office FOMO is real for 6 in 10 Singaporean employees, even more so for late Millennials
Lewis Garrad, Partner and Business Leader for Mercer's Singapore Career business, recently shared that "FOMO can be a big driver for teams to come to the office." Sitting at home realizing you’re are not there for a great social moment in the office can make you feel like you’re missing out. Especially in companies where these social moments get shared liberally on internal messaging platforms like Teams or Slack, people may feel left out.
This idea of FOMO also came up in a recent client conversation. Speaking about a new office the organization was about to open, the CHRO said that we need to make sure the office is a place people love coming to. And, that it's easy to create social content to show it off to the world. Seeing social media filled with exciting moment in the office can help get employees out of their ‘default’ of working from home.
But it's not just social, as per Lewis: "Being in the office also makes it easier to put yourself in the spotlight towards senior staff, make a good impression, and work towards promotions."
No wonder then that 60% of employees in Singapore say that when they work from home, they have experienced Fear of Missing Out about what’s happening in the office. For the 35-44 range, this number even goes up to 69%.
This finding highlights the increased importance of roles like Employer Branding and Employee Communications. In partnership with strong Employee Experience and Employee Engagement leaders, these specialists can ensure that the social side of work is on full display, drawing in more people over time.
In Summary: The State of Hybrid Work in Singapore
The evolving landscape of hybrid work brings many opportunities and challenges for companies in Singapore. As they adapt to the changing dynamics of remote work, office presence, and employee preferences, here are key takeaways to guide their strategies:
- Retaining Flexibility is Essential: Hybrid work is not just a trend; it's a necessity. Employees have grown accustomed to the flexibility that remote and hybrid work offer. The prospect of losing this flexibility could lead to dissatisfaction and attrition. Companies should prioritize maintaining flexible work schedules to retain talent.
- Reimagining the Office's Purpose: The office no longer serves as the default workspace; it's a hub for collaboration, focused work, and learning opportunities. Organizations should create environments that cater to these specific needs, cultivating a compelling reason for employees to choose the office over remote work.
- Nurturing Social Connections: Employees might feel disconnected from their colleagues in a hybrid setup. Encourage social interactions through creative workshops, team-building activities, and events that foster a sense of belonging. Leveraging managers as community builders can enhance team cohesion and psychological safety.
- Empowering Employees in Connection: Employees want to play an active role in staying connected. Encourage and support employees who initiate small events and bonding activities. Recognize their efforts, especially among younger generations who find intrinsic and extrinsic rewards motivating.
- Addressing Office FOMO: Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is real, even in the context of work. Showcase the benefits of the office experience through social content, encouraging employees to engage with the office environment. Emphasize the career growth potential and networking opportunities available through in-person interactions.
- Balancing Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors: Different age groups have varied motivations for office visits. Tailor strategies to accommodate preferences for collaboration, learning, and career advancement. Recognize that younger employees may value extrinsic rewards for engaging in office activities.
- Investing in Employee Experience: Building a positive hybrid work environment requires investment in employee experience, branding, and communication. Teams specializing in Employer Branding and Employee Communications can play pivotal roles in showcasing the social aspects of work and driving engagement.
- Listening to Employee Preferences: Continuously gather employee feedback regarding their preferences and experiences with hybrid work. Regular surveys and open communication channels will help organizations fine-tune their strategies and adapt to changing needs.
In the ever-evolving work landscape, companies must strike a delicate balance between flexibility and engagement. By embracing hybrid work, prioritizing social connections, and understanding the diverse motivations of employees, organizations can create a workplace that fosters collaboration, innovation, and employee well-being in the new era of work.
Frequently Asked Questions
Besides our research about hybrid and remote workers in Singapore, you may have some additional questions. FlexOS is happy to answer those.
What is hybrid work?
Hybrid remote work is a model that combines working from the office with working remotely. Employers who adopt this approach generally have one or more physical offices where some of the team works in-person, while others work from a distance. The specifics of the hybrid remote model chosen by you or your company will determine whether your team joins on designated days, designated days plus optional days of their choosing, or entirely flexible days. The typical models include:
What are the types of hybrid work?
There are various version of hybrid work, with the following three being the most common:
- Hybrid Remote: is a balanced mix of in-office and remote work options, catering to the needs of diverse employees, that comes in three variants:
- Hybrid Choice: people choose which day to go to the office within a minimum number of days required, set by your or the company.
- Partial Choice: besides on or more fixed days, people choose which day to go to the office within a minimum number of days required.
What is an example of hybrid work?
In the graphic above, you can see example of companies' hybrid work policies in Singapore: Google, PropertyGuru, and Meta let employees choose which days to come to the office. Circles.Life, Geniebook, and GovTech mandate certain days and leave other days up to the employee.
Riot Games and Cake Defi have set specific office days, also known as organized hybrid, a model that's growing fast globally. These are all good examples of hybrid work schedule – an example of hybrid work meaning that you work certain days at home, and certain days in the office.
Where do I find hybrid jobs?
To discover hybrid job opportunities in Singapore, you can explore online job platforms such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and Glassdoor. They often feature listings that explicitly mention hybrid work arrangements.
Networking events, industry seminars, and virtual job fairs provide opportunities to connect with potential employers who embrace hybrid work models. Researching companies known for their progressive work policies such as Hubspot and checking their career pages can also help you with valuable insights.
What is WFH or remote work?
Fully Remote work means without an office, and each team member is free to live and work anywhere they choose. Everyone, including executives, is remote, as there are no offices to visit. While remote work and hybrid work are popular options that offer increased flexibility and no or less time spent commuting, the main difference is the obligation to attend the physical office. Work from Home is another way to say remote, or to refer to the days you're not in the office in a hybrid role.
Where do I find remote jobs?
To discover remote work opportunities in Singapore, platforms like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and JobsDB can also be helpful. You can also go to remote-specific websites like FlexJobs or Upwork. Researching remote-first companies like Buffer and Airbnb, and checking their career pages can provide more insights that you can use during your application.
Every week, I scan the news for must-know stories about the employee-centric, happier, distributed, and AI-driven future of work.