Public Service officers whose work allows them to telecommute are allowed to do so for an average of two days per work week, said minister-in-charge of Public Service Chan Chun Sing.
Chan was giving a written reply to a question by Sengkang Group Representation Constituency Member of Parliament Jamus Lim, who asked if there were plans to permanently carry out flexible work arrangements for the public sector during the Parliament sitting on Monday (4 July).
Assoc Prof Lim, who is from the opposition Workers’ Party, gave the example of three days in office and two days at home.
Recent research has shown that many people want flexible work arrangements as the “new norm” for greater work-life harmony.
In his reply, Chan said that the Public Service recognised that the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way people live and work, and supported the tripartite efforts by the Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation to boost the adoption of flexible work arrangements.
Even though the COVID Multi-Ministry Taskforce announced that 100 per cent of employees can return to the workplace from 26 April, the Public Service took the lead for a new flexible work arrangement, he said.
Public service officers whose work allows them to do so can telecommute for an average of two out of five days per work week, and agencies can decide how to carry out the arrangement in line with their operational considerations.
Currently, up to half of the jobs in the Public Service can be suitable for telecommuting, said Chan.
The Public Service also allows officers to stagger work hours, such as starting later than their usual time or finishing work earlier or later.
“Such flexibility would be useful for those with caregiving duties at home. Staggered work hours, if implemented more widely, can also help to reduce peak hour traffic congestion and time spent travelling to and from work,” said Chan.
If staggered work hours or telecommuting were not practical, agencies could discuss other forms of flexible work arrangements with their employees, including part time work.
That said, while telecommuting has helped to enhance productivity by removing the need for officers to travel for meetings, and supports officers with caregiving duties, there were also downsides, said Chan.
“Working virtually for prolonged periods of time could weaken team cohesion and make the inculcation of Public Service values more difficult,” he said.
“To ensure that the Public Service continues to deliver high standards in this new work environment, the Public Service Division had also issued guidelines to reinforce the expectations of work standards and to promote good supervisory practices such as outcome-based performance management.”
The division will continue to review its guidelines against the evolving landscape.
A working paper released by the Institute of Policy Studies’ (IPS) Social Lab in April showed that of the over 2,000 workers surveyed, around half wanted the choice to work from home or office.
The rest were split between preferring either working mostly from office or mostly from home. More than half who had elderly at home preferred flexible working arrangements, signalling the desire to schedule work around caregiving needs.