Singaporean workers reluctant to return to office

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Singaporean workers remain reluctant to return to the office, with many unhappy with the facilities their employers provide which do not enable them to carry out their duties as best they can. This is according to a new study by global workforce creation experts Unispace.

Returning for Good, a Unispace Global Workplace Insights reportsurveyed 9,500 workers and 6,650 business leaders across 17 countries worldwide – including 500 Singapore employees and 250 senior decision-makers in Singapore companies with over 50 employees.

The gap between employer and employee

The results demonstrate that while both employers (53%) and employees (51%) expect that four days in the workplace will be the norm by 2025, a disparity exists between what employers and employees believe the office should look like and provide. ‘Privacy’ and ‘Productivity’ are the problems, not ‘Conveniency’

Over two thirds of workers (68%) reveal that they struggle to do their core job in the office. Where employers believe that their workers’ reluctance to return to the office is primarily due to the commute (28%) and the ability to eat more healthily at home (25%), employees cite three key factors:

  • A lack of privacy in the office compared to their home working environment (34%)
  • Feeling more effective in a quiet, remote working environment (31%)
  • The belief that they are more productive at home (29%)

Where employers believe that workers’ reluctance to return to the office is based on convenience, employees are more concerned with working in spaces that are free of distractions and allow them to work more effectively. More than half (56%) of employees are hot-desking in the office, however 94% of those who have a hot desk said that they would be happier to come to the office more frequently if they had an assigned space.

Motivated and incentivised

This isn’t to say that Singaporean workers aren’t motivated; far from it. Just over 7 in 10 (72%) feel loyal to their brand. Over three quarters (78%) indicated that those not in the office will receive fewer opportunities for pay rises (52%), bonuses (49%), and promotions (47%). Compared with Singapore’s relatively high reluctance to return to the office (40% returning to work, compared to 57% in the USA and 67% in Hong Kong), the conclusion is that office spaces are the problem, not returning to the office, in principle.

This is an opportunity for employers to engage with their workers and create workplaces that allow their people to prosper. Singapore’s high burnout rate (66% compared to a global average of 59%) indicates that it’s incumbent on employers to provide workers with the facilities they need to carry out their duties as best they can.

There is reason to believe that certain businesses are sensitive to their employees’ concerns. 76% of business leaders interviewed in Singapore said they have expanded their office footprint in the last two years, with the primary factor when deciding on a new location being proximity to where their employees live (36%). This is a promising sign that they are listening to their employees’ needs.

Joanne Morris, Head of Design and Delivery, Asia at Unispace says, “Unispace has worked with clients across a variety of sectors, including banking and finance, legal, marketing, healthcare, hospitality, lifestyle and more. More companies are building larger, shared spaces with leisure elements like gaming areas, fitness facilities, and pantries with free beers; even the banking and legal industries – which are perceived as traditional and conservative – are open for hot-desking and meeting rooms with creative elements such as a graffiti wall to increase employee engagement and stimulate inspiration. These help balance their long working hours and high burnout rates.”

Sean Moran, Senior Principal, Client Solutions, Asia at Unispace says,  “From the data, it’s clear that both employers and employees in Singapore expected greater time spent in the office, however a high proportion of workers revealed that they struggle to carry out their core job there. This suggests that businesses have yet to create spaces that allow their people to be as effective at work as they are at home.

Employers have a significant opportunity to listen to their employees and adapt and implement changes that align with what their workers need in the workspace. Ignoring the data – and not seizing this opportunity – invites risking talent attraction and retention.”