SINGAPORE (July 23): In spite of increasing demand among global employees for flexible work arrangements, there are also remains the concern that such freedom at work may compel workers to be “always on” without knowing when to disconnect.

According to the Randstad Workmonitor 2018 Q1 results, three in four employees in Singapore have the flexibility to work from home and outside of stipulated business hours. The flexibility to work at an offsite location appears especially popular among Singaporeans, with 87% believing that such work autonomy increases their productivity, creativity and job satisfaction.

However, 56% of employees surveyed in Singapore felt that they were unable to disconnect from work as a result, although Randstad notes that women appeared less likely to feel that agile working has interfered with their personal life as compared to their male counterparts.

Singapore’s findings are comparable to that of mainland China where 90% of employees surveyed believe the option of flexible work arrangements can help them lead a healthier lifestyle. 

Millennials in mainland China are however more likely to ask for such flexible work arrangements to maintain a good work-life balance compared to more mature workers, out of which 67% felt that agile working has interfered with their personal lives. Notably, 100% of the same demographic said everyone works at the office during opening hours.

The survey results also show that Hongkongers are most likely to lack the option of agile working, although 90% of employees surveyed want to have the option to work outside of the office environment, and during a time that better accommodates their lifestyle.

Only half of Hong Kong respondents said they felt pressured to be “always on” – the lowest in all Asian markets surveyed – while mature employees are the least likely to feel pressured, with 59% of them choosing not to work outside of business hours so as to focus more on their personal lives.

In comparison, employees in Malaysia are the most likely (63%) among all four surveyed markets to feel that agile working will interfere with their personal lives.

Mature workers in Malaysia appear more likely to prefer agile working, with 100% of employees aged between 55 and 67 agreeing that it would improve their overall job satisfaction, and significantly less (39%) of this age group feeling more pressured to be “always on” compared to millennials (63%) who feel that agile working will interfere with their personal lives.

Commenting on the latest findings, Jaya Dass, Managing Director at Randstad Singapore, says Singapore employees are especially prone to the risk of “presenteeism”, which is the act of being present at work for more hours than required.

This is often mistakenly accepted as having a commendable work attitude, in her view.

“Employees in Singapore are known to be hard workers and often clock long hours at work… Unfortunately, this behaviour impacts workplace productivity and business profitability. Digital devices should not cause any unnecessary stress and employers who entrust their staff with the flexibility to work outside of the office at a time that works best for them are encouraged to respect employees’ working hours,” notes Dass.

“Employees who are given the freedom should also have a clear sense of their responsibilities, provide timely updates to their coworkers and keep to their deadlines,” she adds.