According to the Employer Alliance, there are currently more than 418,000 economically inactive residents (aged 25 to 64) in Singapore, of which 336,000 are women. It is estimated that about 160,000 want to find work, but are unable to do so on a full-time basis due to other commitments such as raising young children, or taking care of their elderly parents. In short, though there is a severe manpower shortage, there is no shortage of those who are willing to work. The solution, of course, lies in implementing flexible working arrangements.

The Singapore government has thus far been in favor of this. However, its approach has been to encourage employers to give the schemes a try, rather than resorting to passing laws to force companies to adopt these schemes. A Ministry of Manpower (MOM) spokesman said as much when he mentioned that it “is not desirable for the Government to use the law to prescribe FWAs (flexible working arrangements) at this point in time”. Instead, the MOM launched a $170 million scheme, called the WorkPro Programme, to encourage employers to build progressive workplaces for their staff.

A paradigm shift in work culture

It is rather strange that employers still require convincing in order to adopt FWAs. Plenty of surveys have been conducted over this topic, and have shown unanimously that those who under such schemes are usually more (or equally) productive than their counterparts who work full-time. One such survey can be viewed here. However, many companies who still value ‘face-time’ highly still refuse to bite the bullet. To be fair, it is indeed a huge shift in work culture, albeit one that has numerous benefits, foremost of which is productivity. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer reflected the majority view when she instituted a ban on work-from-home arrangements, with Best Buy following suit in quick succession. On the other hand, there are several ways to ensure that employees on such schemes are kept on track.

Keeping employees on track

One way is to conduct regular meetings to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Some companies conduct online video chats every morning to do a quick review on what has been done, and briefing on what each employee will be doing that day. This helps to fulfil “face-time”, and can be done for free through web applications such as Skype or Google Hangouts.

Another is to utilize task management software to keep employees accountable for their work. One of these would be the Asana software, which is free for teams with up to 29 members.

Technology aids communication

To be certain, the success of FWAs hinges on effective communication between employees – and this can be fulfiled with the use of relevant software, which are plentiful in the market today.

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