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How the 2-year remote setup subdued Singapore workers’ productivity

The lack of proper digital tools at home posed the greatest challenge to flexible work arrangements, a study found.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hogged the headlines when he released a memorandum saying he will be working remotely for the half of 2022 because this setup makes him more productive. Apparently, 60% of Singaporeans working from home felt otherwise. The difference in these two perspectives boils down to the technology readily available at home, or the lack of it.

Two years into working from home, 59% of Singaporeans said that their productivity either dipped or did not improve. Of this percentage, 40% said their productivity was unaltered and 19% revealed that they are seeing a drop in their productivity, a recent study by DocuSign in partnership with market research firm, YouGov, titled “The evolution of working from anywhere” found.

READ MORE: Chart of the day: Remote job postings in Singapore fall by 25% in May

“[The workers’] technology infrastructure that was in place may be unable to support the work, or it could have been due to insufficient processes that weren't digital,” Dan Bognar, general manager and vice president of DocuSign in Asia-Pacific and Japan, told Singapore Business Review.

“As a result, the organisation's employees had to revert to traditional pen and paper processes,” added Dan.

WFH experience across generations

Millennial and Generation X employees may be from two different generations but they air the same frustrations when they had no choice but to work from home.

Early on in the pandemic, these age groups were seen to be unprepared to transform a part of their house into a proper workspace and to have the right tools in a work-from-home setup.

To address this, DocuSign provided its employees with funds so they could purchase ergonomic chairs, ergonomic desks, monitors, and headsets.

Micromanaging whilst working from home is also an enemy of these generations which can be curbed by promoting a culture of empowerment and trust in the employees that they will be productive in their duties.

“I think it's important that we trust our employees that they are going to be productive and they are going to focus on the outcome,” explained Dan.

Another finding from the study is that, ironically, 11% of Generation Z workers do not have the right tools to communicate with their teammates despite being born in the digital age.

This is where highly transparent communication and over communication should step in with digital tools, said Dan. 

“That means [there has been a need of] regular either weekly calls or monthly all-hands calls or even using collaboration technologies like Slack, which DocuSign integrates,” Dan pointed out.

Aside from the lack of tools, another concern of 49% of employees born between 1956 to 1980 and 44% of millennials is that the flexible work setup compromises teamwork with colleagues.

“More than any other generation, this group of workers sees working with their peers in the office as a crucial part of their social connection day to day,” said Dan. This shows that how employees communicate, collaborate, and connect builds the very foundation of the employee experience.

READ MORE: 6 in 10 execs believe works get done in office not remote

Flexible working is here to stay

DocuSign's findings showed that 50% of Singaporean businesses permanently implement flexible working. In another study, as of April 2022, an Institute for Policy Studies research titled, “Attitudes Towards Work and Workplace Arrangements amidst COVID-19 in Singapore,” showed that almost half of 2,000 Singaporean employees polled picked hybrid agreements as their preferred mode of work.

“The reality is that hybrid working is here to stay and organisations need to very quickly adapt both their technology and their business processes to be able to facilitate that,” Dan said, adding that respondents only want more than one or two days a week in the office.

Due to the convenience of remote work, Dan expects that businesses will not revive traditional setups anymore.

“[Workers] can duck out during the middle of the day to focus on their wellness and work that kind of revolves around their life responsibilities,” Dan said. 

If businesses will heed their employees' call for a permanent flexible setup, DocuSign urged organisations to look for the right tools, including video technology, collaboration platforms and eSignatures, that should be met to increase workers’ productivity.

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