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HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Andrew Chung

Why flexibility can't be ignored by successful companies

BY ANDREW CHUNG

When Compass Offices surveyed 1,200 employees across Asia, the findings gave us amazing insight into what makes workers tick. And we weren't too surprised: employees expected their companies not only to have good corporate values, but even more importantly, to be flexible.

The survey, conducted through August 2016, closely examined employee habits and practices within the office. In Singapore, we looked at employees from sectors including information technology, finance, human resources, consultancy, manufacturing, among others; employees were surveyed from the C-level to managerial level. 

With the global economy slowing down, Asia's facing some certainly unique challenges. The region still accounts for 40% of the world's economy – and despite the world's economic recession, Asia has incredible potential. Businesses here just have to play it right – and that's why we went straight to the employees, to see what they want.

If one thing rings true again and again, it's employee demand for flexibility. In Singapore, 60% – one of the highest out of all the countries we surveyed in Asia – find that having their office located near a major transportation hub is the most important workplace perk.

Employees simply no longer want to waste time on unnecessary commutes, when they could be spending more time at home with their families or pursuing their own projects.

Half of our respondents in Singapore also said that access to good food and lunch places was an important workplace perk. Clearly, office location is prime; and companies need to be flexible when it comes to finding a good space.

Good employees will flock away from a location that's isolated, or far away, to save on rent. And having that flexibility to create spaces where employees can both enjoy their breaks, and easy access, is absolutely key.

Further, Singaporean employees are both active and mobile. More than their other Asian counterparts, they tend to travel frequently out of Singapore – and in the office, they by far rely more on chat apps and mobile technology. Companies should be more flexible in creating spaces that allow Singaporean employees to enjoy travelling and using technology in order to attract top talent, and thrive.

For example, only 5% of our respondents in Japan used chat apps in the workplace – but in Singapore, more than half of our respondents relied on chat apps for work. And a quarter of our respondents in Singapore travelled more than once a year for work.

Of course, pay packages and promotions shouldn't be ignored. For employees in Singapore, knowing a promotion on the horizon – and the money they make – is important. Both salary and the prospect of a promotion were rated highest when we asked employees what the most important thing about the job was.

So regardless of how many perks a company introduces, it should still be flexible when it comes to introducing strong and tenable paths for career development. This, going from our survey, is of the utmost importance to Singaporean employees. 

Singapore is taking some important steps by stepping up its efforts to support startups and small-medium businesses. The government has implemented special tax schemes to support newly incorporated companies, in addition to providing a startup cluster ‘Block 71' and research resources.

Recently, the government also launched SG-Innovate where it serves as one-stop office to boost Singapore's position as a financial technology hub.

But there's a ways to go, still: Singapore isn't particularly pessimistic when it comes to getting promotions. Not even 20% of our respondents said they were optimistic they'd get a pay rise in the next year. Compared to the other countries in Asia we surveyed, that's quite low.

Companies would do well to keep in mind that boosting this optimism would create a better workspace, with more employee retention, in the long run. And perhaps, again, the best way to do that would be offering clear paths in employees' career development.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Andrew Chung

Andrew Chung

Andrew Chung is the Chief Executive Officer of serviced office provider Compass Offices. His career starting point was as a Chartered Accountant in London. In 1997 he founded his own recruitment company, Wall Street Associates, and in 2005 sold Wall Street Associates Hong Kong to Talent2. As a veteran property investor, Andrew has amassed a property portfolio of over 120 properties.

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